JEONGSEON, South Korea — Michelle Gisin’s downhill crash left her with a headache and a little bit of self-doubt.
Enter big sister Dominique, who spent the night with the Swiss skier, answering all her phone calls, tucking her into bed and quelling any of those nagging doubts.
On Thursday, a restored Gisin turned in a solid downhill and a sensational slalom to win the women’s Olympic Alpine combined over Mikaela Shiffrin.
Now Gisin has a gold medal just like her helpful sister, who tied for the downhill title at the 2014 Sochi Games.
“It was the biggest moment of my life when she won that gold and I think today was one of the biggest moments of our lives. But her gold will forever be the biggest thing,” said Michelle Gisin, who’s about eight years younger than her sister. “She made me believe that you can grab the stars and that’s what I did today.”
So let the party begin in their hometown of Engelberg, Switzerland. Well, in a few weeks anyway, when the World Cup season ends. And, of course, Gisin’s good friend and teammate Wendy Holdener will be a guest of honor, too, after she finished with the bronze in the same race.
It’s the second time Switzerland has placed two women on the podium of the Alpine combined event at the Winter Games. The other was 1988, when Brigitte Oertli (silver) and Maria Walliser (bronze) accomplished the feat.
“I’m really looking forward to coming home. I miss home,” said the 24-year-old Gisin, who won in a combined time of 2 minutes, 20.90 seconds. “I miss the cheese, the chocolate.”
Gisin really didn’t know how to celebrate after crossing the finish line. She raised her ski poles. She emphatically pumped her right one. She pressed her gloves against her face.
It was a case of emotional overload.
“Totally confused, happy, stoked on that,” said Gisin, who held off silver medalist Shiffrin by 0.97 seconds. “It was insane.”
She was banged up going into the race — emotionally and physically. In Wednesday’s downhill, she fell at the finish line in skidding across the icy surface while taking eighth place.
Big sister to the rescue.
“She put me to bed and took my phone away and answered the urgent messages,” Gisin explained. “I really had no stress at all and could just chill and sleep because that was needed after that nice crash on my head. Yeah, that was the most important thing about it. I was lucky that it wasn’t so bad because I just had a little headache so that’s totally OK.
“The most difficult part of the day was to overcome myself and overcome the fear that always comes to you and creeps in if you have a crash.”
The reservations didn’t show in the downhill portion of the combined, when she had the third-fastest time and trailed leader Lindsey Vonn by 0.77 seconds.
Next, the slalom. She had a 1.21-second lead on Shiffrin, who’s one of the best in the world at the discipline. But lately, the slalom has been baffling Gisin.
Until Thursday, that is. It was nearly a flawless run.
“Almost. Very close,” said Gisin, who came up as a slalom racer and earned a silver medal in the combined at the world championships last February. “This season, the slalom kicked my butt so many times. ... I tried to believe that one day it would come to me. Today, it was exactly that.”
Holdener had a nice run, too. She had the fastest slalom time, but was just too far back after the downhill.
“I’m really happy it was enough for third place and now to celebrate with Michelle, it’s crazy,” said Holdener, who also captured a silver in the slalom at the Pyeongchang Games. “It’s a really cool moment because we are friends forever and grew up together. It’s amazing.”