Mikaela Shiffrin couldn’t keep the tears from falling after her nightmare of an Olympics continued Wednesday morning (Tuesday night in Boston).
“I feel really bad,” she said, her voice trembling.
Seconds into Shiffrin’s first run of the slalom, her best event, she missed a gate, resulting in a disqualification. Because Shiffrin did not complete her first run, she was ineligible to attempt a second run, eliminating her from medal contention.
Three-time Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn, now an analyst on NBC’s prime-time broadcast, said Shiffrin “didn’t have the right direction” heading into the next gate.
“I was pushing out of the start,” Shiffrin said after the race. “I had full intentions of skiing as hard as I could. I slipped up a little bit on the one turn, and I just didn’t give myself room to make any kind of error like that and actually still be able to make the course.
“That was my plan — I was planning to go on the most aggressive line, the most challenging line to ski, but I also know it’s the fastest and I didn’t make it past five gates.”
The 26-year-old Shiffrin noted that that type of mentality has previously brought out her best skiing. She has won 47 World Cup slalom races, the most in a single discipline by any skier, and also took home the slalom gold at Sochi in 2014.
“My goal was to push and I did that,” Shiffrin said. “Maybe I pushed a little over the limit.”
After the mistake, Shiffrin sat on the slope with her skis off, knees up, and head in her arms. She remained on the mountain for several moments, off the course as multiple competitors skied past, before eventually making her way down.
She said later she was reflecting on the past few days, which have not gone according to plan.
Shiffrin was also disqualified from her first event in Beijing, after she missed an early gate in the giant slalom. Between her two showings, Shiffrin has raced for a total of 16 seconds. The last time Shiffrin recorded back-to-back DNFs in technical races at the senior level was December 2011.
The results certainly sting.
“It makes me second-guess, like, the last 15 years,” an emotional Shiffrin said on the NBC broadcast. “Everything I thought I knew about my own skiing and slalom and racing mentality.”
Shiffrin said her feelings of disappointment are compounded by the loss of her father, Jeff, who unexpectedly died at 65 following an accident at the family’s home in February 2020. He attended both the Winter Games at Sochi and PyeongChang.
“Right now, I would really like to call him,” Shiffrin said. “That doesn’t make it easier. He would probably tell me to just get over it, but he is not here to say that, so, on top of everything else, I am pretty angry at him, too.”
After her father’s death, Shiffrin said she considered walking away from racing. She took a lengthy break and returned to form, despite her own doubts that she would be able to do so. In December 2020, Shiffrin won her first World Cup race since Jeff’s death. She went on to win six more World Cup races in the year leading up to the 2022 Winter games.
There were high expectations for Shiffrin in Beijing. But the three-time Olympic medalist doesn’t know why she hasn’t be able to perform at the high level she’s been accustomed to over her 11-year career.
“I will try to reset again,” she said. “Maybe try to reset better this time, but I also don’t know how to do better because I just don’t. I have never been in this position before, and I don’t know how to handle it.”
Fellow Olympians of past and present expressed their support on social media.
“Gutted for Mikaela Shiffrin, but this does not take away from her storied career and what she can and will accomplish going forward,” Vonn tweeted. “Keep your head high.”
“You have so much to be proud of,” added track and field star Gabby Thomas. “An inspiration for all of us. Keep going.”
Gymnast Simone Biles, who withdrew from multiple events in the most recent Summer Games because of mental health concerns, sent Shiffrin three heart emojis on Twitter.
Shiffrin has said she is planning on competing in all five Alpine skiing events in Beijing, which leaves the super-G on Friday, the downhill Feb. 15, and the combined Feb. 17. She acknowledged giant slalom and slalom were her “biggest focuses.”
“We are not done yet,” she said. “It really feels like a lot of work for nothing. They will try to say, ‘This happens and it’s OK,’ and ‘Don’t be too hard on yourself.’ But it is a lot of work for a grand total of five gates in the [giant slalom] and five gates in the slalom. That’s not lost on me.”