For Mikaela Shiffrin, it was worth the wait.
The American’s quest for Olympic greatness finally got under way after days of weather delays and the 22-year-old did as was expected, winning gold in the Women’s Giant Slalom with ease.
Shiffrin finished ahead of Norwegian Ragnhild Mowinckel in second and Italian Federica Brignone in third.
Hailed a “phenom” even before winning her first Winter Olympic gold as an 18-year-old in Sochi, Shriffin is aiming for multiple golds in Pyeongchang.
She’s expected to contest all five Alpine events at the 2018 Games, but even before the Games started she was a favorite in two other events besides the Giant Slalom: the Slalom and Alpine combined.
The rescheduling of multiple events because of high winds earlier in the week has complicated matters for the three-time world champion.
If she is to become the first Alpine skier to win more than three gold medals in one Olympics, Shiffrin now faces a jam-packed schedule with the remaining women’s Alpine events crammed into nine days.
The American will compete again Friday, in the slalom, but could forsake Saturday’s Super-G, depending on her recovery. On Wednesday, February 21, is the downhill and two days’ later is the combined.
Cheerleaders in full voice
Shriffin wasn’t the only competitor attracting attention on the slope.
North Korea’s all-female cheerleading squad, dressed in matching red snowsuits and bobble hats, were in full voice at the Yongpyong Alpine Center to support North Korea’s entry in the Giant Slalom, 25-year-old Kim Ryon Hyang.
Joining the squad in their singing and chants was a group of about 50 unification supporters wearing hoodies with a silhouette of a unified Korean peninsula.
The unification group, mainly young people who are from various cities in South Korea, had learned that the cheerleaders would be present through local media and decided to attend the event.
Huh Jung-bin, 22, from Busan, South Korea’s second-most populous city, said they were at the Alpine Center to support the cheerleaders and unification of the North and South, two countries still technically at war.
Throughout the competition, the two groups, sitting in separate sections, would sing in unison, and wave flags of unified Korea which have been so familiar at these Games.