Skier Mikaela Shiffrin opened her Olympics with victory and figure skaters Aljona Savchenko and Bruno Massot smashed a world record to grab gold as full Olympic competition resumed today after days of wind disruption.
The 22-year-old Shiffrin kicked off her bid for multiple titles in Pyeongchang with a storming second run in the giant slalom, ending a nervous wait after it was postponed because of high winds on Monday.
The Sochi 2014 slalom champion from America sank to her knees and dissolved in tears after her powerful descent brought her gold from Norway’s Ragnhild Mowinckel by 0.39 seconds.
“I don’t know how to explain it. It’s crazy. There’s so much emotion,” Shiffrin said. “To come to the Olympics after some tough races on the World Cup circuit and to charge like that – I risked it on the second run – it’s super-cool.”
Earlier, Aksel Lund Svindal, 35, became the Olympics’ oldest alpine ski champion in the men’s downhill, with Kjetil Jansrud completing a Norwegian one-two.
“Attacking Viking” Svindal, coming to the end of a stellar career, clocked 1min 40.25sec down the 3km Jeongseon course to hand Norway its first Olympic downhill gold.
“It feels pretty good, I’m extremely happy,” Svindal said. “World Cup wins, I’ve been there a few times and know how that feels, but this is different.”
The Germans Savchenko and Massot were in floods of tears after they won the pairs figure skating by a whisker ahead of China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, the strong favourites who missed out after Sui took a tumble.
After an error in the short programme, hopes had faded for Savchenko and Massot but they scored 159.09 points in the free dance, breaking their own world record, to pull off a fairytale victory.
To roars from the crowd, French-born Massot then lifted Ukrainian-born Savchenko onto the top step of the podium. Meagan Duhamel and Eric Radford of Canada took bronze.
“I was positive after yesterday. I said to Bruno, we will write history today. And then everything happened as I had imagined it and it came true,” Savchenko said.
North Korean duo Ryom Tae-ok and Kim Ju-sik, supported strongly by their country’s all-female cheering squad and the home South Korean crowd, scored a personal best total of 193.63.
“I was very nervous about the competition, but once we went in, the sight of our cheer squad and the southern countrymen cheering together offered great support and stimulation,” Kim said.
Frenchman Pierre Vaultier retained his snowboard cross title and Norway’s Ragnhild Haga won the women’s 10km cross-country race.
Also on a busy day six featuring nine gold medals, French army officer Martin Fourcade will go for his second biathlon gold in Pyeongchang.
Sven Kramer, bidding for his fifth Olympic title, will attempt to make it six speed skating golds out of six for the Netherlands in the men’s 10,000m.
The winds dropped markedly today, after skiing and biathlon were both postponed on Wednesday and organisers were forced to close off the Gangneung Olympic Park for safety reasons.
Sixteen people were hurt at the Olympic Park precinct, which houses four ice sports venues, as tents, signs, fences and other equipment were damaged by the wind.