Mikeala Shiffrin processes Olympic Alpine combined performance

The 26-year-old will have one more shot for a medal at Beijing Games

Mikaela Shiffrin stands on the side of the course after crashing out during the women's combined slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics on Thursday.
Robert F. Bukaty/AP

Mikaela Shiffrin continued to show grace and transparency in speaking with the media about her trials at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. She talked to NBC’s Todd Lewis on Thursday after skiing out of her third event at these Games which has become a two-and-a-half week nightmare for the overall World Cup leader.

“I wanted to ski just a good run of slalom, and I don’t know, I feel like a joke,” she told NBC after posting a DNF in the Alpine combined event, which was won by Michelle Gisin of Switzerland.

Her third Olympics was supposed to be about possibly overtaking Janica Kostelić for the most career Alpine medals by a woman (six). At the very least, the three-time medalist was expected to surpass Julia Mancuso for the most Olympic medals by a female American skier (four). Then, she skied out of her two specialties, the giant slalom and slalom, before finishing ninth in the super-G and 18th in the downhill. Yesterday, she skied out of the Ice River course for a second time in the final portion of the combined, blowing a golden opportunity to win if she had been able to just put together an average — by her standards — slalom performance.

“I’ve never had the experience where actually good skiing had this kind of mistake. It wasn’t actually even a mistake. I was smarter on this first pitch — first four turns — but I wasn’t even holding back, I was just trying to get my feet a little bit of space, find my rhythm,” she told NBC about in detailing her final individual event in Beijing.

“I got my rhythm, I accelerated off the pitch. Everything there was just exactly in line, what I wanted to feel, what my best slalom can produce. And, I don’t know if it was some combination of driver error — maybe a small little track in the snow — maybe I can’t see it or didn’t react quick enough or whatever it was.”

She said she was relaxed at the start and resisted the urge to be stubborn in her routines, admitting that whatever she had been doing in the first four events of the Games hadn’t been working.

“You know the saying, ‘Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity?'” she rhetorically asked Lewis at the bottom of the hill Thursday. “Well, I was doing something different. I was just shaking out my shoulders, smiling a bit. Like, I had quite a bit of fun today — even the first six turns I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is the feeling I wanted to have, like thank goodness.'”

“I just wanted to have it a little bit longer.”

Mikaela Shiffrin gives a word of encouragment to Priska Nufer of Switzerland after Nufer skied out of the slalom in the women’s combined event. 11 of the 26 athletes posted a DNF on the Ice River slalom slope in the event.
Roman Vondrous/CTK via AP Images

The magnitude of the moment was acknowledged by the American.

“I don’t know if anybody’s failed that hard with so many opportunities maybe in the history of the Olympics,” she said. Refusing to wander down the road of self-pity, Shiffrin’s words still contained raw, human tinge of disappointment.

“I really selfishly wanted to have a good run of slalom down this hill and, yeah, I’ll be left wanting there.”

Instead of looking back, Shiffrin postured a position of positivity on her overall Olympic experience.

“I had some of the best skiing I’ve ever done, here in Beijing,” she stated.

“In the training, in the downhill over the last week, in my slalom — even today. And in the race, in the moment when it counts, then I didn’t make it to the finish. And that’s never happened in my entire career, so I don’t understand it, but there was so much positive that’s happened the last couple of weeks despite how much it really stinks.”

Shiffrin’s frustrations, which stem from the general mystery in the mechanics of the perceived disaster, are still festering for the three-time World Cup overall globe winner.

“Sometimes you just have to take it. I don’t know what I’m supposed to fix, that’s the frustrating thing — I don’t think there’s actually something to fix. It just went really, really wrong.”

Shiffrin will become just the second woman after Petra Vlhova to contest all six Alpine events at the Olympics when she competes in the mixed team parallel on Saturday. She left her fans reason for optimism with a social media post after Thursday’s event.

“Just get up. It’s not always easy, but it’s also not the end of the world to fail. Fail twice. Fail five times. At the Olympics …” she posted on Instagram.

“Why do I keep coming back? Gosh knows it hurts more than it feels good lately. I come back because those first nine turns today were spectacular, really heaven.”

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