JEONGSEON, South Korea — Both Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn raced the Alpine super-combined on Friday, the first time the two American skiers competed against each other at the Olympics, and almost surely the last.
The experts made Shiffrin the pre-race favorite for gold. For Vonn, medal prospects were akin to — in her words — Russian roulette.
Shiffrin didn’t win. She did, after a hard-charging slalom, take silver. Vonn, leader after the downhill, hooked a tip in slalom, and skied out, meaning no medal of any sort.
This silver may, when all is said and done, be one of the most important medals Mikaela Shiffrin ever wins. You saw in it real joy. You saw in it leadership. She is, going forward, the face of the U.S. ski team, and the way she embraced that silver means she and the American program have reason to celebrate.
“To have two medals at the Olympics — that’s insane,” Shiffrin said.
With the silver, Shiffrin became the fourth American to win at least three Olympic Alpine ski medals. The others: Vonn (three), Julia Mancuso (four), Bode Miller (six).
Swiss racers went 1-3, Michelle Gisin winning gold, Wendy Holdener bronze.
One of the hardest — perhaps the hardest — thing to do at this level of big-time sports is to meet, or beat, the expectation game.