BEIJING: Double gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin slid out in her bitterly disappointing opening race at the Beijing Olympics on Monday as two teenagers made their mark on their Games debuts.
Kamila Valieva, a 15-year-old Russian, created figure skating history by becoming the first woman to land a quadruple jump in Olympic competition — and not content with doing it once she did it again.
And Californian-born Chinese freestyle skier Eileen Gu, 18, held her nerve to seal a place in the final of the Big Air event on her Games bow.
Defending champion Shiffrin of the US was among the favorites to retain the women’s giant slalom title and win a third Olympic gold medal of her career, but in bright morning sunshine she made an error near the top of her first run and her race was over.
“There’s a huge disappointment, not even counting medals,” the 26-year-old said. “The day was finished basically before it even started.”
Shiffrin vowed to move on and quickly concentrate on Wednesday’s shorter slalom, a more technical event in which she is a four-time world champion.
With Shiffrin out, Sara Hector of Sweden won the giant slalom for her first individual victory at a major championship.
Shiffrin’s Norwegian boyfriend Aleksander Aamodt Kilde completed a miserable day for skiing’s golden couple when he could only finish fifth in the men’s downhill despite starting as favorite.
Switzerland’s Beat Feuz mastered a treacherous course to win the most prestigious race in Olympic skiing, improving on his bronze from Pyeongchang four years ago.
Experience counted as the 34-year-old clocked 1min 42.69sec to finish 0.10sec ahead of 41-year-old Frenchman Johan Clarey, who became the oldest man or woman in history to win an Olympic alpine skiing medal.
Austria’s Matthias Mayer finished third while Kilde was more than half a second adrift of the winner.
“The Olympics are a big thing and today it worked for me ... It means the world to me,” Feuz said.
“I can’t think of anything more beautiful than flying home with a gold medal around my neck.”
At the Big Air Shougang venue, where enormous industrial cooling towers provide a gritty backdrop to the skiers’ gravity-defying mid-air moves, Gu took her Olympic bow.
The teenager, who has captivated China since switching allegiance from the United States three years ago, misjudged her second attempt, coming down in a tangle on her second run.
She responded with a shrug and a smile and, with the pressure on, produced an assured third run to reach Tuesday’s final -- and give herself a chance of gold.
“Oh my god!” she exclaimed to the cameras.
At the Capital Indoor Stadium, Valieva landed the quadruple jumps -- when a skater rotates four times in the air -- as she helped the Russians win gold in the figure skating team event.
All eyes will now be on the teenager in the women’s singles event next week to see if she can maintain the Russians’ stranglehold on a title they have won at the last two Olympics.
Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot completed a remarkable comeback three years after fighting cancer when he won the men’s slopestyle gold.
Parrot, who said chemotherapy left him “at zero percent” when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2018, beat 17-year-old home favourite Su Yiming to take gold.
“It was the hardest moment of my life and to be standing here three years later at the Olympics again, doing my passion, laying down the best run I’ve ever done and winning gold -- it’s insane,” Parrot said.
Dutch speed skater Ireen Wust became the first person to win a gold medal in an individual event at five different Olympics -- summer or winter -- after retaining her 1500 metres title.
“There’s something magical that gets to me when it comes down to the Games,” 35-year-old Wust said.
Away from the sport in Beijing, Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai said she never accused anyone of sexual assault, in an interview published Monday, and said the allegation that a top Chinese politician had forced her into sex had sparked a “huge misunderstanding”.
It came after the International Olympic Committee said Peng had met its president Thomas Bach at the Beijing Games.