American ace Mikaela Shiffrin has pulled out of Wednesday’s Olympic downhill after a switch in the race schedule caused by approaching bad weather, US officials said today.
Her decision came after Pyeongchang organisers announced they would bring forward Friday’s combined event to Thursday because of strong winds forecast later in the week.
“As much as I wanted to compete in the Olympic downhill, with the schedule change, it’s important for me to focus my energy on preparing for the combined,” said two-time Olympic champion Shiffrin.
“I’m looking forward to cheering on our girls racing in the downhill and to compete myself in Thursday’s combined.”
The 22-year-old, who had targeted multiple gold medals at these Games, won the giant slalom earlier this week but bombed in Friday’s wind-delayed slalom, her signature event, finishing fourth after vomiting with nerves before the start.
Shiffrin’s shock result in the slalom, the discipline she won in Sochi four years ago at just 18, punctured the exuberant hype over her potential assault on five gold medals in South Korea.
But after the race, the American, who pulled out of Saturday’s super-G because of the compressed schedule, tried to put a positive spin on her slalom flop.
“You know what? I wouldn’t change that [race] for the world,” she wrote on social media.
“For me the Olympics is about showing heart and passion as much as it is about medals,” added Shiffrin.
“I wouldn’t take back my emotions or excitement after the GS [giant slalom] in order to have better shot at a SL [slalom] medal too.”
Shiffrin’s topsy-turvy Games took another strange twist earlier today when her boyfriend, the French skier Mathieu Faivre, was ordered to pack his bags and return to France by French team officials over an angry rant he made after a race at the weekend.
“Mathieu will return to France for disciplinary reasons,” David Chastan, director for French men’s skiing, said today.
“He made remarks after the race that were not in the spirit of the team and will not be retained for the team event.”
Shiffrin trained on the downhill course on Sunday and today but has not competed in a speed race – either downhill or super-G – since early January.
As with the conundrum she faced over the super-G, Shiffrin opted to skip the downhill after suddenly being faced with the prospect of racing on consecutive days.
Heavy winds at the start of the Games caused havoc with the alpine ski programme, but organisers have taken an early decision to bring forward the combined event after looking at the weather reports.