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U.S. Skiers Fall Short Of Expectations

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

At the Winter Olympics today, Switzerland's Michelle Gisin won the final individual Alpine ski event. It was the ladies combined, which consists of a downhill run and a slalom run. For U.S. skiers Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, each run delivered dramatic results. Here's one member of our Olympics team, NPR's Tom Goldman.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: A Hollywood ending was in the air on a South Korean mountain today. Thirty-three-year-old American Alpine star Lindsey Vonn began what probably was her final Olympic event by skiing down the mountain faster than anyone. She finished first in the downhill portion of the combined, halfway to a gold-medal farewell. But slalom was to come, and the quick-turning technical event never has been a strength, but grit has. And she told reporters after the downhill she was ready to draw on that.

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LINDSEY VONN: I certainly know that I am a pretty good competitor, so I'm going to give it hell. And maybe I can pull out a miracle.

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UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: And Lindsey Vonn, the most-decorated female skier of all time, is on course.

GOLDMAN: Hollywood hung in the balance as Vonn started her run down the short, steep slalom course.

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UNIDENTIFIED SPORTSCASTER: Oh.

GOLDMAN: There'd be no miracle, as she straddled a gate and didn't even finish.

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UNIDENTIFIED JOURNALIST: Can you describe that short slalom run that you took up there?

VONN: It was too short. Sometimes when I try to be aggressive in slalom, I make my turn a little too early and I straddle.

GOLDMAN: While Vonn, the departing U.S. star, struggled in the slalom, America's now and future Alpine great, Mikaela Shiffrin, excelled. It's her best event, and she powered down the run and claimed a silver medal to go with the gold she already won. Shiffrin's Olympics didn't meet the outside world's huge expectations of even more medals, but the 22-year-old is satisfied.

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MIKAELA SHIFFRIN: To be in this position now is incredibly sweet. And moving forward, like, I know what to do to get better.

GOLDMAN: Vonn called it incredible what Shiffrin's done so young and said Shiffrin can ski another 10 years and win a lot more medals. But as snow whipped around her in the fading light, Vonn noted ski racing's physical toll on her and so many others and offered her younger teammate these words - appreciate every moment because the sport has a way of taking a lot from you. Tom Goldman, NPR News, at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.