Frida Hansdotter dethrones Shiffrin in Olympic slalom
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Frida Hansdotter looked at her time on the video board — hardly believing it was true — and let out a yell.
This was way too good to hold in.
A few anxious moments later, it became official: Hansdotter — Olympic slalom champion.
The Swedish skier dethroned reigning champion Mikaela Shiffrin and held off everyone else Friday at the Pyeongchang Games.
“I was just screaming, ‘Yes!’ Or something like this,” Hansdotter said, smiling.
In second position after the opening run, Hansdotter seamlessly weaved her way through the technical course on the final run to finish in a combined time of 1 minute, 38.63 seconds. She realized it was a good performance (hence the scream). Still, she restlessly watched as first-run leader Wendy Holdener of Switzerland glided down the hill.
Hansdotter won by a scant 0.05 seconds.
“I can barely believe it,” said Hansdotter, who trailed Holdener by 0.20 seconds after the morning run. “I had a good day today.”
Before the day began, the 32-year-old Hansdotter could very well picture a podium that included her. But one that didn’t include Shiffrin? Now that was hard to fathom since the American has been so consistently good in the discipline all season. A conservatively skiing Shiffrin wound up fourth, with 20-year-old Austrian skier Katharina Gallhuber grabbing the bronze.
“It’s racing. It’s slalom. Everything can happen,” Hansdotter said. “If you’re not skiing your best and fast, then you’re not on the podium.”
Hansdotter became the second Swedish woman to capture an Olympic slalom gold, joining Anja Paerson, who won the event at the 2006 Turin Games. She had a chance to speak with Paerson, who offered some simple advice: Have fun and ski fast.
She did just that through the sun-splashed course at Yongpyong Alpine Center.
“It’s so nice the last few years that she has succeeded,” Paerson said. “But she has always been behind Mikaela Shiffrin and today she can show that she has capacity. ... It’s so huge. She’s so worth it.”
Hansdotter finished fifth in Sochi four years ago in the slalom, and 15th in the event at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Her World Cup resume includes a number of close calls (18 runner-up finishes) to go with four wins since her debut on the circuit on Oct. 23, 2004. She also has three world championship podium finishes in the slalom — all behind winner Shiffrin.
Not this time, though. The moment belonged to Hansdotter.
“I’m surprised today. I wasn’t so nervous,” Hansdotter said. “I wanted to take this day and enjoy. I had a smile on my face at the start. I really take the chance. So I think that was my thing today.
“To be able to ski at this level is so much fun and now I bring home a gold medal. It is a lot of hard work and a lot of years, but it is worth every minute when I am standing here.”
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