Rising before dawn on Wednesday, Shiffrin was on the racecourse for more than an hour, inspecting and memorizing the intricate pattern of slalom gates to better her chances at defending her Olympic title. She seemed especially engrossed by the task on the slope, her concentration perhaps heightened by the frequent delays.
As for Vonn, what has she been doing while Shiffrin has sweated out interminable race delays and nasty weather that has disrupted her training as well?
Vonn has had plenty of time to rest and to pick and choose her times to train as she focuses on her events — the downhill, super-G and Alpine combined, which take place in the span of a week beginning Saturday. Vonn seems at ease as she waits for her Olympic journey to begin, apparently on time and as scheduled.
Vonn appears to have spent Wednesday hunting for love on Twitter.
Shiffrin would also like to enter one or two more events next week. But that was a plan from a week ago. Back then, the notion that Shiffrin would chase medals in five Olympic events seemed more plausible because the races were evenly spaced across 12 days, not wedged into nine, action-packed days.
For nearly a year now, Shiffrin expected to be done with roughly half of her odyssey at the Pyeongchang Olympics by nightfall on Feb. 14. In the best-case scenario, she would have swept two of her best events, or at least earned a medal in both. Then in the second week she would play with house money, especially since she would be a clear favorite in the final individual race of the Olympics, the women’s Alpine combined, which is one downhill and one slalom run.
Instead, she is still being held back, like a skier in the start gate prohibited from pushing past the timing wand to start a race.
The silver lining is Shiffrin probably stood to benefit the most from the postponements. The winds sweeping through northeastern South Korea would have made the slalom and the giant slalom races either unsafe or unfair. If officials had held Wednesday’s race, an ill-timed uphill gust could have doomed her chance at a medal. A gust of wind at the back of a racer might have inequitably affected who won the race — or lost it.
Shiffrin acknowledged as much after Wednesday’s postponement.
“It is definitely unfortunate that we weren’t able to race today, but it is important we have a fair race for all of the athletes,” Shiffrin said in a statement released by the United States ski team. “Today’s conditions would definitely not have been fair. Weather delays and postponements are just the nature of an outdoor sport.”
In that perspective, Shiffrin may have evaded a much worse fate, which would be a defeat caused not by anything she did or did not do but by a bad break. And afterward, Shiffrin would have had to accept that outcome because blaming the weather for a loss would only come off as an excuse.
In the meantime, she waits. The weather is expected to improve considerably. But day by day, it is getting easier to understand why only three Alpine skiers have ever won three gold medals in one Olympic Games.