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2022 Olympic Alpine skiing in review: Swiss swipe record five golds as Shiffrin struggles

2022 Olympic Alpine skiing in review: Swiss swipe record five golds as Shiffrin struggles
Posted at 5:52 AM, Feb 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-20 05:28:41-05

Drink wine, ski fast.

Sometimes, the key to making Winter Olympics history is just that simple. So it was for Switzerland’s Alpine ski racers at the 2022 Games, who followed their delightfully straightforward blueprint to five gold medals in Beijing. Never before has a nation combined for as many Alpine skiing victories at a single Winter Games. But the historic Swiss success made up just one piece of a dramatic, quirky and unforgettable Alpine skiing program that spanned 11 events at the Beijing Games.

There was the setting: The Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center, a striking and mystifying speck of perfect white, assembled by humans inside a mountainous desert that hardly ever sees snow. Until it did, during these very Games, when a blizzard dumped half of the region’s yearly snowfall average onto the men’s giant slalom competition. Its speed and technical courses, known affectionately as the The Rock and the Ice River, challenged all and terrorized most.

There was the comeback story that defied medical logic, when Italy’s Sofia Goggia returned from a partially torn ACL suffered three weeks earlier to not only take part in the women’s downhill, but win the silver medal.

There was the Cochran family. Mother Barbara, a slalom gold medalist 50 years prior, watching from the living room of her Vermont home as her son, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, added his own silver medal to the family legacy.

And then there was Mikaela Shiffrin, the best and most famous ski racer in the world, who had a very different Games that she or anyone else expected, but still emerged as a champion and role model.

Relive all the best moments of Alpine skiing at the 2022 Winter Olympics below, complete with highlights from the action.

Medal Table — Alpine Skiing
Country Medals Total
Switzerland 🥇 5 | 🥈 1 | 🥉 3 9
Austria 🥇 3 | 🥈 3 | 🥉 1 7
Italy 🥇 0 | 🥈 2 | 🥉 2 4
Norway 🥇 0 | 🥈 1 | 🥉 3 4
France 🥇 1 | 🥈 1 | 🥉 1 3
Slovakia 🥇 1 | 🥈 0 | 🥉 0 1
Sweden 🥇 1 | 🥈 0 | 🥉 0 1
United States 🥇 0 | 🥈 1 | 🥉 0 1
Germany 🥇 0 | 🥈 1 | 🥉 0 1
Slovenia 🥇 0 | 🥈 1 | 🥉 0 1
Canada 🥇 0 | 🥈 0 | 🥉 1 1

 

SWITZERLAND SETS RECORD WITH FIVE GOLD MEDALS

The nation that idolizes its champion ski racers more than any other got a quintet of heroes to honor during the 2022 Winter Games. Beat Feuz (men’s downhill), Michelle Gisin (women’s combined), Lara Gut-Behrami (women’s super-G), Marco Odermatt (men’s giant slalom) and Corinne Suter (women’s downhill) combined to win 50% of the individual gold medals available at the Beijing Games, jointly accomplishing a feat that no nation in history had ever done.

More than a decade separated the five Olympic champions in age, from 24-year-old phenom Odermatt to 35-year-old veteran Feuz. Each of them, apart from Odermatt, added to already-stellar Alpine skiing careers.

Feuz, Gut-Behrami and Gisin all left Beijing as three-time Olympic medalists, with Gisin becoming the third consecutive woman to repeat as champion in the combined event. It was she who confessed to the Swiss team’s secret strategy, “Drink wine, ski fast.” Suter’s gold was her first Olympic medal, but she adds it to one world championship and two season-long World Cup titles.

Odermatt, the lone Olympic neophyte, might wind up with the best resume of the group when all is said and done.

MIKAELA SHIFFRIN POWERS THROUGH CHALLENGING GAMES

Rarely, if ever, has an athlete so candidly and honestly grappled with the reality of their own failure like Mikaela Shiffrin did during the 2022 Winter Games.

Beijing was meant to be the latest big stage to showcase her generational ski racing talent, the same talent that had already made her a two-time Olympic gold medalist and the sport’s third-winningest athlete ever. Instead, Shiffrin encountered the most difficult two weeks of her professional ski racing career, underperforming even the most conservative expectations.

First, she crashed out 11 seconds into her first run of the women’s giant slalom competition. Then five seconds into the women’s slalom. She resiliently entered the super-G and downhill competitions for the first time in her Olympic career but did not contend for the podium in either. A third DNF in the slalom portion of the combined event – after a strong performance in the opening downhill leg – twisted the knife. Lost in it all was one historic accomplishment: Shiffrin became just the second woman ever to ski in all six Alpine skiing events at a Winter Games when she suited up for the U.S. team in the mixed team event, finishing just off the podium in fourth.

 

Throughout the experience, Shiffrin was open and unguarded as she tried to make sense of it all. She never backed away from media interviews, despite early indications from U.S. team officials that she would. In those interviews, she was brutally self-critical, often unfairly so. Shiffrin was the first to classify her own Olympic results as “failure” and at one point went as far as to label herself, “a joke.” Not once did she attribute blame to anyone or anything other than herself.

“I don’t know if anybody’s failed that hard with so many opportunities, maybe in the history of the Olympics,” she said after the combined event. “But I will take it. I mean, it is a joke. That’s fine.”

The best and most famous Alpine skier in the world simply had a rotten go of it for two weeks in Beijing. Performance-wise, the 2022 Winter Games are unlikely to be more than a footnote when all is said and done in her extraordinary career. She’s only 26, and the 2026 Milano Cortina Olympics could write a very different narrative. So could World Cup races and world championships in the interim. But from the standpoint of setting a commendable example in the face of adversity, Shiffrin’s Games were worth much more than gold.

Ryan Cochran-Siegle wins super-G silver for Team USA

The lone U.S. Alpine skiing medal of the 2022 Winter Games was forged in the rolling hills of Northwest Vermont, at the Cochran Ski Area to be exact. The single-lift ski hill is where 1972 slalom gold medalist Barbara Cochran showed her son, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, the ropes of the family business.

The path from those moments to the Olympic podium was long and indirect, and included multiple detours for injury recovery. The most recent was also the most serious: a broken neck (C7 vertebrae to be exact) resulting from a brutal crash 13 months ago in Kitzbuhel, Austria. At that time, Cochran-Siegle was skiing faster than he ever had been in his decade-long career, having just picked up his first two World Cup podiums, including his first win.

Things were different after neck fusion surgery, though, and “RCS” entered the 2022 Winter Olympics regarded as little more than a top-10 hopeful. The came the men’s super-G on February 8. Cochran-Siegle took off as the 14th skier down The Rock speed course and delivered 89.98 seconds of nearly flawless super-G skiing. Just 0.04 separated him from Austria’s Matthias Mayer for the gold medal.

"It's special," an emotional Cochran-Siegle said while waiting for his silver to become official. "I think as an athlete you're always charging and always trying to get better, and I think sometimes you can use [injuries] as fuel, but just never give up on yourself."

On the other side of the world, Barbara watched in pajamas from her Vermont bedroom as her son added another Winter Games medal to the family skiing legacy. Two Olympic moments, 50 years apart, united by a name and a New England hill.

Alpine skiing full results, replays and highlights

Men's Events
Event Medalists Full-Event Replays
Downhill 🥇 - Beat Feuz (SUI)
🥈 - Johan Clarey (FRA)
🥉 - Matthias Mayer (AUT)
REPLAY
Super-G 🥇 - Matthias Mayer (AUT)
🥈 - Ryan Cochran-Siegle (USA)
🥉 - Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR)
REPLAY
Giant slalom 🥇 - Marco Odermatt (SUI)
🥈 - Zan Kranjec (SLO)
🥉 - Mathieu Faivre (FRA)
REPLAY (RUN 1)
REPLAY (RUN 2)
Slalom 🥇 - Clement Noel (FRA)
🥈 - Johannes Strolz (AUT)
🥉 - Sebastian Foss-Solevaag (NOR)
REPLAY (RUN 1)
REPLAY (RUN 2)
Combined 🥇 - Johannes Strolz (AUT)
🥈 - Aleksander Aamodt Kilde (NOR)
🥉 - James Crawford (CAN)
REPLAY (DOWNHILL)
REPLAY (SLALOM)
Women's Events
Event Medalists Full-Event Replays
Downhill 🥇 - Corinne Suter (SUI)
🥈 - Sofia Goggia (ITA)
🥉 - Nadia Delago (ITA)
REPLAY
Super-G 🥇 - Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI)
🥈 - Mirjam Puchner (AUT)
🥉 - Michelle Gisin (SUI)
REPLAY
Giant slalom 🥇 - Sara Hector (SWE)
🥈 - Federica Brignone (ITA)
🥉 - Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI)
REPLAY (RUN 1)
REPLAY (RUN 2)
Slalom 🥇 - Petra Vlhova (SVK)
🥈 - Katharina Liensberger (AUT)
🥉 - Wendy Holdener (SUI)
REPLAY (RUN 1)
REPLAY (RUN 2)
Combined 🥇 - Michelle Gisin (SUI)
🥈 - Wendy Holdener (SUI)
🥉 - Federica Brignone (ITA)
REPLAY (DOWNHILL)
REPLAY (SLALOM)
Mixed Team Event
Event Medalists Full-Event Replays
Parallel Slalom 🥇 - Austria
🥈 - Germany
🥉 - Norway
REPLAY

SEE MORE: Austria scores mixed team gold on final day of Winter Games