Asit Rathod knows Mount Hood.
Mikaela Shiffrin pulled off an amazing recovery midway through a challenging, 60-turn slalom course to win Olympic gold in Rosa Khutor, Russia today.
The gold medal performance makes the 18-year-old Shiffrin the youngest slalom gold medalist in the history of the Winter Olympics. She skied brilliantly in her first run and was well on her way to victory in her second run when the rebound from a powerful turn kicked her airborne and nearly out of the course. She somehow managed to recover her balance at full speed, complete the turn entirely on her inside ski, and race to the finish with grace and power to win by just more than a half second overall.
Shiffrin, a remarkably composed teenager from Eagle-Vail, Colorado whose training regimen included juggling while riding a unicycle as a kid, is renowned for her ability to make perfectly round, efficient turns in all conditions. She is so calm under pressure that it is hard to believe that she just graduated from high school last spring. She grew up in Colorado, attended the Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, and like most top American racers, she has done her share of gate training on Mount Hood in summer.
Shiffrin already had proven herself a champion last season by becoming the youngest skier ever to win both the world championships and the World Cup globe in slalom. The media pressure on her grew even more intense as the Olympics approached, especially after an injury forced U.S. Ski Team superstar Lindsey Vonn out of the Olympics.
But the hype didn't seem to bother her at all as she conquered a steep, slushy, heavily rutted course in Rosa Khutor.
The Austrian racers Marlies Schild and Kathrin Zettel won the silver and bronze medals respectively. Defending Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany finished fourth, and double gold medalist Tina Maze of Slovenia (giant slalom and downhill) finished eighth.
It's hard to estimate how much Shiffrin's gold medal will earn her, but it will be significant. She is already sponsored by Atomic, Barilla, Leki, Oakley, P&G Beauty and Pantene, and that list is likely to grow now that she has proven herself on a mainstream global stage.