KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) — Mikaela Shiffrin knew what to do after the first run of the giant slalom left the teen skiiing sensation in fifth place.
"Ski faster," she said.
Shiffrin did just that, slicing through the rain and snow to trim some off her first run time in the first Olympic race of her young life. But her stay near the top of the leaderboard was brief, and she was soon eliminated from medal contention.
Her goal was gold. But under difficult conditions the 18-year-old gained some valuable experience that could pay off when she goes off as the favorite Friday in the slalom.
"I wanted a gold, but I also think this was meant to happen," she said. "It's something I will learn from the next Olympics I go to I'm sure."
The closest thing to a replacement for the U.S. in the Olympics for the injured Lindsey Vonn, Shiffrin had a chance to boost the flagging hopes of the country's ski team by snatching a medal in her Olympic debut. It wasn't to be, though, with Tina Maze of Slovenia earning her second gold medal of the Sochi Games and two other veteran gold medal winners in Anna Fenninger and Viktoria Rebensburg taking the silver and bronze.
"It's amazing to be at my first Olympics and have that first race out of the way," said Shiffrin, who finished fifth. "That was also a very cool race to be a part of, especially with the top three girls, they really raced well."
Shiffrin raced well herself, bettering her time in the second run as snow alternated with rain. But a couple of mistakes on turns cost her valuable tenths of a second in the middle of the second run and she couldn't make them up.
Shiffrin was in second place as she crossed the finish line, but there were four other skiers with first run times better than her who were yet to ski. It became a numbers game that Shiffrin quickly lost.
"I tried to race from the very start to the very finish," she said. "I think it was a pretty fair race and I'm just really in awe of the top three girls."