BEIJING — Mikaela Shiffrin and the American mixed ski team missed out on a medal by 0.42 seconds, losing in the bronze matchup Sunday to cap an exasperating Beijing Olympics for the two-time gold medalist, who is going home empty-handed.
“I have had a lot of disappointing moments at these Games, today is not one of them,” Shiffrin said. “Today is my favorite memory.”
The top-ranked Austrians won gold in the Winter Games’ second iteration of the mixed-team parallel event, holding off Germany in the final.
The U.S. primarily used Shiffrin on the slower of the parallel courses, and she lost three of her four heats, including in the bronze matchup against Norway. Teammate River Radamus delivered the win the U.S. needed in the last heat to force a 2-2 deadlock, but he wasn’t fast enough to tilt the tiebreaker — combined times of the fastest man and woman — to the Americans’ favor.
“River, I mean, we’re watching you at the bottom there, and the fact you’re skiing so strongly, you’re giving us hope, that’s the biggest win you could give us,” Shiffrin said to Radamus.
Shiffrin went 0-for-5 in her bid for an individual medal in Beijing. She only reached the finish line at two individual events, coming in ninth in the super-G and 18th in the downhill, her two worst contests. She lasted only about five gates in giant slalom, five gates in the slalom and 10 in the slalom portion of the two-leg combined.
“I would say that my teammates are what carried me through this Olympics,” she said after the team event, before turning to her teammates. “These are my absolute favorite memories. I just want to say thank you for that.”
Shiffrin, 26, easily managed the giant-slalom course in the first round and beat Slovakia’s Rebeka Jancova — one of few victories by skiers on the slower red course. River Radamus and Paula Moltzan won their heats by even larger margins as the U.S. advanced.
Shiffrin lost her quarterfinal race from the red slope against Italy’s Marta Bassino by two-hundredths of a second. The sixth-seeded Americans still advanced with a 3-1 upset of the third seed.
Shiffrin went down the slower red course in the semifinals and was narrowly beaten by Germany’s Lena Duerr. Radamus won his heat, and Moltzan looked set to put the U.S. up 2-1 on the faster blue course before slipping with three gates left. Her opponent, Emma Aicher, also fell, but she earned Germany the point by making it just slightly farther down the hill.
Tommy Ford was then unable to win from the red course, dropping the Americans into the bronze match.
“I don’t think you can emphasize enough how unbelievable it is for us to be here and be in the hunt for a medal,” Shiffrin said. “I get that people will say we came up short, but the thing is, to have this depth on our team coming from the U.S., competing in a European-dominated sport ... it was unbelievable.”
Austria also tied in the final against the Germans, but Stefan Brennsteiner and Katharina Liensberger took their heats in a faster combined time than Lena Duerr and Alexander Schmid. Austria won silver in the event’s debut at the Pyeongchang Games four years ago.
The mixed-team event was postponed a day after gusts at up to about 40 mph kept skiers off the slopes Saturday. Shiffrin and most of the U.S. team had been scheduled to fly out of China early Sunday but changed their plans to remain in the team event. Many skiers were likely eager to depart with the World Cup circuit resuming next weekend, the women in Switzerland and the men in Germany.
Conditions were calmer Sunday, with gusts reaching around 25 mph, but temperatures dipped to minus-3 degrees. Skiers huddled at the bottom of the course in white comforters they apparently brought from their rooms.
The mixed-team event pits groups of up to six skiers head to head down parallel giant-slalom courses — men against men, women against women. There are four races per match in the 16-team bracket, and tiebreakers are broken by combined times for the highest-scoring men and women for each team in that match.
The event has drawn little interest from the sport’s top skiers, both because they don’t love the format and because it’s so close to the end of the Games. When mixed team debuted in 2018, 15 of that year’s 23 individual medal winners skipped it, including Shiffrin.
This year, only one of Alpine’s 10 gold medalists participated — Austria’s Johannes Strolz. Only 15 teams even entered, so No. 1 seed Austria got a first-round bye.