- Associated Press - Thursday, February 15, 2018

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The nervous energy accumulated for Mikaela Shiffrin while she waited, waited, waited for these Olympics — the ones that so many are expecting to be HER Olympics — to finally get started. First one race was postponed. Then another.

And so it was not until a week into the Pyeongchang Games that Shiffrin and the other female Alpine skiers got to compete in the rescheduled giant slalom, an event the 22-year-old American considers a work in progress for her. In second place and still feeling some jitters after the first of Thursday’s two runs, Shiffrin did two things during the 31/2 hours before the deciding leg of the GS: She took a nap, and then she sneaked onto the adjacent men’s course at Yongpong Alpine Center for a little free skiing.

“Then,” said Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, who is also a coach, “I think she was just like, ‘I’m ready. I’m doing this.’”

Sure was. And sure did.

On a crisp, clear day with very little sign of the gusts that have played havoc with the skiing program, Shiffrin dealt well with her pent-up emotions and put together a pair of aggressive, if not quite perfect, trips through the gates to win the giant slalom for the second Olympic gold medal of her precocious career.

No American Alpine skier has won more.

“Definitely, it’s been a mental strain the last couple days, thinking we’re going to race and then not racing. So to finally have the race actually happen today, I was like, ‘Well, I really hope that I actually can do it when the time comes that we finally race.’ And, yeah, I did,” said Shiffrin, who is based in Colorado. “So now we got the ball rolling. I’m really excited for tomorrow.”

As well she should be.

That’s because Friday brings the slalom, by far Shiffrin’s best event, one that she has dominated for five years, including a gold at the 2014 Sochi Games plus a trio of world titles. She is a huge favorite in that one, unlike the giant slalom, in which Shiffrin was merely a strong contender. After that, Shiffrin will skip Saturday’s super-G, according to her mom, because there’s no time to properly prepare. She still intends to enter the downhill and combined.

“I don’t think it gets any easier, but I think she can take a deep breath and say, ‘The pressure’s off a little bit. Maybe,”’ said her father, Jeff. “She’ll just approach it the way she’s always approached it: It’s left-right-left-right-left-right, forget about the result.”

In this instance, the result was a two-run time of 2 minutes, 20.02 seconds, good enough to beat surprise silver medalist Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway by 0.39 seconds and Federica Brignone of Italy by 0.46. First-run leader Manuela Moelgg of Italy quickly gave away her 0.20-second advantage over Shiffrin and was eighth.

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