Switzerland's GISIN 'grabs the stars' in Alpine combined
PYEONGCHANG - Lindsey VONN’s garlanded Olympic career ended in anticlimax at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games on Thursday as Swiss Michelle GISIN (SUI) “grabbed the stars” and swept to gold in dominant fashion in the ladies’ Alpine combined event at Jeongseon Alpine Centre.
After a vintage performance to lead by 0.74 seconds after the downhill section of the race designed to find ski racing’s top all-rounder, hopes were high that VONN (USA), the last out of the slalom gate, might seal her Olympic odyssey with one final medal run.
Yet as the snow began to come down, the great American’s challenge came to a juddering halt after just a few gates as she hooked a tip and was forced to ski out.
It left GISIN down below, who clocked a combined two minutes 20.90 seconds for the two runs, to celebrate a convincing win and the first major gold medal of her career following her silver medal in the Alpine combined at the World Championships last year.
The 24-year-old’s victory meant another celebration for the GISIN family after Michelle’s older sister Dominque GISIN (SUI), who was watching as a TV commentator, had won gold in ladies' downhill at Sochi 2014.
“Dominique’s gold will forever be the biggest thing,” said GISIN. “She made me believe that you can grab the stars and that's what I did today.”
GISIN could hardly credit that she had defeated the two pre-event favourites, silver medallist Mikaela SHIFFRIN (USA), who finished 0.97 seconds behind, and her Swiss compatriot Wendy HOLDENER (SUI), who was 1.44 seconds adrift.
Both celebrated winning their second medals of PyeongChang 2018, after SHIFFRIN had taken gold in the giant slalom and world Alpine combined champion HOLDENER silver in the slalom.
After the lead had changed seven times in the slalom, GISIN, who had been third, 0.77 seconds down on VONN following the downhill, delivered “the best slalom of my life” to take the decisive lead.
It came after her teammate HOLDENER had applied the pressure, producing the fastest slalom leg in just 40.23 seconds, which rocketed her from 10th after the downhill to third. SHIFFRIN had been left too much to do after finishing sixth in the downhill and Ragnhild MOWINCKEL (NOR), seeking a third medal of the week, slumped back to fourth from second.
For GISIN, though, the hero of the hour was once again her sister. “I crashed into the finish area at the end of Wednesday’s downhill. Dominique stayed with me all afternoon and night, she took my phone away, took my messages, organised my physio so I had no stress at all. I just chilled and slept off a little headache.”