BEIJING — Two-time Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin’s first trip down the race hill at the Beijing Games lasted just five turns and mere seconds Monday, ending in a disqualification from the opening leg of the giant slalom that she called “a huge disappointment.”
The seventh racer on a course known as The Ice River at the Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center, and the defending champion, the 26-year-old American lost control coming around a left-turn gate, slid and fell on her side. Eventually, she got up and stopped on the side of the slope, stuck her poles in the snow and put her hands on her hips.
“The day was finished, basically,’’ Shiffrin said, ‘’before it even started.”
She still could have a handful of chances over the next two weeks to become the first Alpine ski racer from the United States to win three Olympic golds across a career. Shiffrin hopes to enter all five individual events in Beijing.
“I’m not going to cry about this,’’ she said, ‘’because that’s just wasting energy.”
Not long after her competitive day was done hours earlier than expected, Shiffrin headed back out to do some training for the slalom.
That is her next event, scheduled for Wednesday. Shiffrin won that at age 18 at the 2014 Sochi Games, part of a remarkable career that includes a total of three Olympic medals — there was a silver in the combined at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, in addition to her triumph in the giant slalom there — three World Cup overall titles and a half-dozen world championship golds.
“Like you can see, anything can happen and it happens really, really quickly,” she said Monday.
Shiffrin did not appear overly dejected or emotional by the time she came down the mountain and spoke to reporters. Then she hugged teammate Nina O’Brien and congratulated her on her sixth-place run.
How surprising was this? Shiffrin is as precise a skier as there is, someone who prides herself on making sure she gets all the way down the course, pushing just the right amount to be faster than everyone else while staying upright — no easy task while sending yourself down the icy side of a mountain.
This was the first time she had failed to finish a giant slalom anywhere since Jan. 23, 2018, in the Kronplatz World Cup event at San Vigilio di Marebbe, Italy — a 30-race streak. That mistake came three weeks before she won the gold in South Korea.
Shiffrin arrived in China as one of the most-watched athletes in any sport at the Winter Olympics, a superstar who has dominated ski racing for long stretches in recent years.
Shiffrin has spoken openly about the pressure created by the weight of expectations — her own, of course, and those of fans, but also coaches, friends and family. She also is upfront about the burden of dealing with the accidental death of her father, Jeff, two years ago.
Shiffrin was hardly the only racer to encounter trouble Monday: She was one of 19 of the 80 starters who failed to finish the first run. Only skiers who complete that get a chance to go in the second run, scheduled for later Monday.
Marta Bassino of Italy, who won the World Cup giant slalom title last season and went two spots earlier than Shiffrin on Monday, fell on her left hip, slid down and spun around.
Sara Hector of Sweden — who leads the GS standings this season — led the way with a first-run time of 57.56 seconds, followed by Katharina Truppe of Austria at 57.86 and Federica Brignone of Italy at 57.98. Brignone was the bronze medalist in the giant slalom four years ago.