Strong wind ends Shiffrin’s last hope of Beijing medal
Mikaela Shiffrin must wait for her final chance at a Beijing Olympics medal after high winds forced the last alpine skiing event off until Sunday, as Nico Porteous won just the second gold in New Zealand’s history.
US star Shiffrin’s hopes of ending her disappointing Olympics on a high were blown off course with the mixed team parallel postponed on Saturday and now taking place on the last day of the Games.
But more wind is forecast for Yanqing, north of Beijing, on Sunday and if it ends up being canceled it would be only the second time in Winter Olympics history that an event could not take place during the Games.
The last, according to AFP’s database, was the 10,000 meters speed skating event at the 1928 St Moritz Games.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) is conscious that some competitors had planned to fly out on Sunday.
“It was pretty clear with the wind gusts it wasn’t possible to stage the race,” said FIS communications director Jenny Wiedeke.
The time squeeze presents a fresh headache for the International Olympic Committee and local organizers, who were already reeling from a doping scandal surrounding teenage Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva.
The team parallel is the last opportunity for Shiffrin, who won slalom gold in 2014 and 2018, to leave China with a medal after she misfired in the individual events in the Chinese capital, skiing out of three races and finishing out of the medals in two others.
Porteous masters conditions
Porteous defied the windy conditions to claim only New Zealand’s second gold in Winter Games history and in the process ended American David Wise’s eight-year reign as freeski halfpipe champion.
Snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott had given New Zealand their first ever Winter Olympic gold earlier in the Games and Porteous made it two with an inspired first run at Genting Snow Park.
“I can’t really describe that, to be honest. I’m so, so happy and I’m currently over the moon. I still can’t really believe it,” he said.
The 20-year-old scored 93.00 to take the lead on his first attempt, although he ran out of speed on his second run and crashed on his third.
It was still enough to stay ahead of two-time champion Wise, who was unable to make it a hat-trick of Olympic titles and finished second on 90.75.
His American teammate Alex Ferreira was third on 86.75.
“The weather conditions were tough today. It was very slow and it was quite challenging,” said Porteous, whose elder brother Miguel came 11th.
“But I stomped what I knew and tried my best and left everything out there and … it’s so freezing cold right now, I’m lost for words.”
Britain’s Gus Kenworthy, a silver medallist at the 2014 Sochi Games, finished eighth in his final appearance before retiring.
Kenworthy, who switched allegiance after representing the United States, suffered a heavy fall on his second run, smashing his back into the side of the halfpipe.
“This sport and the Olympics and competing on a professional level has changed my life in ways I could have never imagined,” said the openly gay 30 year old.
“I grew up in a town of 2,000 people, 48 kids in my graduating class.
“I’m gay. I felt like I just didn’t fit in sport, and to be out and proud, competing at the Olympics and all of the opportunities that have come my way since the Olympics, I couldn’t be more thankful.”
After Saturday’s early action, Norway topped the medals table with 15 golds, with Germany second on 10 and the United States third with eight, the same number as China.