Vonn and Shiffrin and the Search for Five

Can the USA, or more specifically, Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, win all 5 women’s individual events in Alpine skiing at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics? And has anything like that ever been done before?

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The Alpine events have been swept before, both by Austria, or rather Toni Sailer, in 1956 at Cortina d’Ampezzo; and in 1968 by France, or Jean-Claude Killy, at Grenoble. Other than those 2 dominating individual accomplishments, no other nation has ever swept the Alpine gold medals, and it has never been done on the women’s side, even with only 3 events, with the closest any nation or person came to that occurring in 1976 when Rosi Mittermaier (FRG) won gold in the downhill and slalom, and a silver in the giant slalom.

However, there have been 5 Alpine events at the Winter Olympics since 1988 in Calgary. At PyeongChang there will actually be an opportunity for a 6th event, with a mixed team event, but here we are only looking at the 5 individual events.

Vonn is coming back from injuries and until later December did not look like she was ready to win any medals, but she has since won 2 races and is likely the favorite in the downhill. There have not been many Super-Gs for women this year, but Vonn did win one at Val d’Isere in December. Lara Gut (SUI) is likely favored, but Vonn, almost a pure speed skier, will certainly contend.

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Lindsey Vonn

Shiffrin has been, until recently, purely a technical skier. In the women’s slalom she will be the heaviest Alpine favorite in PyeongChang, winning 7 World Cup slaloms already this season. She has also won 2 World Cup giant slaloms this year and will likely be favored in that event. Further, Shiffrin, has 2 podiums this year in downhill, an event she eschewed prior to this season, including a victory in December at Lake Louise. With that improved skill in the downhill, and her dominance in slalom, she is likely the favorite in the combined, although that event is harder to call, as it is so rarely raced in the World Cup.

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Mikaela Shiffrin

So has any nation, much less 2 athletes from 1 nation, ever won all 5 individual Alpine Olympic events since 1988? No. The best national performances came in 1998 (Hilde Gerg and Katja Seizinger) and 2010 (Maria Höfl-Riesch and Viktoria Rebensburg) for Germany, which won 3 gold medals; and 2002 for Croatia, when Janica Kostelić won 3 races – slalom, giant slalom, and combined. Among the men, only Austria in 1998 won 3 individual Alpine gold medals, with Hermann Maier winning giant slalom and super-G, and Mario Reiter winning the combined.

So no nation has ever come close. It’s a longshot for Vonn and Shiffrin to win 5 golds, as it was for Eric Heiden in 1980, but it is possible. Can Lindsey and Mikaela do it? We shall see.

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