PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Jared Goldberg couldn’t see alpine ski legend Marcel Hirscher’s gold-medal run, but he knew by the crowd’s reaction that it was something special.
But the 26-year-old Skyline alum knew he couldn’t think about that.
He couldn’t ruminate about the success of those who surrounded him in the start house at the Jeongseon Alpine Center.
He couldn’t even think about how the time he earned during the downhill section earlier Tuesday morning made an Olympic podium possible.
“I wasn’t thinking about where I was on the downhill,” Goldberg said. “I just knew that I went right behind Marcel Hirscher and Alexis Pinturault, and those guys are beating guys by a ton in World Cup slalom. So I knew I had to really send it, and see how I did. So that’s what I did.”
Goldberg took risks.
It did not pay off.
“I was risking a lot today,” he said, after missing a gate on the slalom section of the combined race and falling from ninth to 36th place. “Today was very favorable for slalom guys. Most of the guys in the top 10 are slalom skiers. I was trying to go as fast as I could and stay in control.”
But swirling winds in the middle slowed the two-time Olympian.
“I brought it onto the flats and was really looking for speed, and then there was a really hard section in the middle with two delays, which I’ve never seen before, and I just missed the timing and came in too quick and missed the gate. So I had to hike.”
After missing the gate, Goldberg hiked up the hill several meters and finished his run. It is, he said, a habit to finish a course if he can, regardless of the situation.
“I always like to hike if things go wrong,” he said. “I like to ski, so I want to ski down it. I inspected it, so I might as well see what it ran like.”
While Goldberg’s opportunity slipped away, Hirscher, one of most successful alpine skiers (55 career wins) in history, earned the only honor that’s eluded him — an Olympic gold medal.
“Everyone is always saying ‘Nice career, but an Olympic gold medal is missing,’” Hirscher said. “All the people expected me to win a gold medal, especially in Austria. This is perfect, unbelievable.”
One of those other guys in the start house with Goldberg earned silver, France’s Pinturault, while his countryman, Victor Muffat-Jeandet, earned bronze by laying down the second-fastest slalom to make up for his 29th finish in the downhill.
The highest finishing American was Park City’s Ted Ligety. A headwind slowed him during the downhill competition, but he navigated the slalom in an impressive time to jump from 18th to fifth.
“In combined, you never really know,” Ligety said of what he expected from the race. “It’s always a wild-card event. I felt like I had a good chance at perhaps getting a medal today. If I had luck on the wind side of things, that could have somewhat been a reality.”
Ligety and others said the wind’s erratic movement from head to side to tail made an icy, bumpy downhill race even more difficult.
He gave the slalom his best effort, even though he knew it was a long shot.
“I knew it probably wouldn’t be enough after the downhill,” he said. “To battle from a disadvantage against some of the best slalom skiers in the world isn’t really a formula for a medal, but I’m happy with how I skied both runs.”
Hirscher said his downhill set him up to earn the first Olympic gold of his storied career.
“I think it was my best downhill ever,” he said. “I killed it because putting on my downhill skis really, exactly one year ago, was the last time I skied on downhill skis.”
American Bryce Bennett finished 17th after placing 23rd on the downhill section.
Ligety and Goldberg will compete again Thursday in the men’s downhill.