BEIJING (AP) — There was simply no way to predict this. Not for anyone, including Mikaela Shiffrin herself.
It was quite difficult to imagine in advance that the American skier would go 0 out of 5 in the individual races at the Beijing Olympics, leaving without a medal of any and with a better performance of ninth place.
The fact that she failed to even complete three of those events – the three that are her best, including Thursday’s Alpine Combined – was one of the most surprising developments in the entire Olympics. 2022.
“I definitely have a lot of questions,” Shiffrin said. “I’m really disappointed. And I’m really frustrated.
She arrived in China as one of the biggest stars in ski racing – or any sport. Holder of three Olympic medals, two gold and one silver. Six gold medals at the world championships. Three overall World Cup titles.
Yet the 26-year-old from Colorado never displayed her enviable technique and talent or common sense at the National Alpine Ski Center in the rugged Brown Mountains of the Yanqing area, about 90 kilometers away. northwest of central Beijing.
“It’s incredibly difficult for her as a person,” said Paul Kristofic, the United States women’s head coach. “We had high expectations coming here, and it didn’t go as we hoped, of course.”
Shiffrin spoke openly and at length in the months leading up to those races about those huge expectations — from herself, fans, coaches, even close friends and family. She was also candid about the lingering grief over her father’s accidental death two years ago.
On Thursday, she admitted she might be pushing too hard and not allowing herself enough room for error in the tick-tock-tick-tock, left-right rhythm of a slalom, but wasn’t sure. of a common denominator for errors.
“The pressure is there. It’s still there. And I don’t feel uncomfortable or even unfamiliar with it,” she said, not far from where Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin received her second straight combined gold medal. “Some days I’m a bit tighter and it’s still possible to ski well. And some days I’m a little looser and it’s still possible to ski well.
Shiffrin’s last mediocre performance came in the second stage of the combined, which adds the times of a downhill and a slalom race.
She finished fifth in the downhill, certainly in contention for a better result, maybe even a gold medal. What she had to do, and couldn’t, was stand for about 50 seconds – long enough to get to the bottom of the slope as light snow descended.
The problem occurred after about 10 doors and 10 seconds. She lost her balance, couldn’t regain it, and ended up landing on her hip.
Shiffrin sat for a few moments in the snow. When she stood up, she shook her head, then looked up the hill, as if trying to figure out exactly where things had gone wrong.
Later course reports – sent to Americans who raced after Shiffrin – warned of a rut on the grade that may have been the source of Thursday’s problem.
It was among several things she mentioned when discussing factors that could have contributed to what went wrong over the past week and a half: the logistical challenges of the Olympics in the midst of a pandemic; an episode of COVID-19 in late December that left her unable to ski for 10 days; icy, manufactured snow that several runners found to be different from what they are used to in Europe.
It didn’t sound like someone offering an apology. It sounded like someone looking for explanations, along with everyone else.
Afterwards, Shiffrin said she could imagine people back home thinking before the slalom portion of the combined: “This might just be the medal that saves everything, after all.”
But instead, she said, “I just feel like I’m kidding.”
It was as hard for her to believe as it was for anyone else.
“Besides leaving the Games without medals – no individual medals – the most disappointing thing is that I had several opportunities to ski slalom on this track,” Shiffrin said, “and I have, well, you know, failed in all of them.”
It was quite similar to what happened in the first run of each of his first two races: the two-run giant slalom on February 7 and the two-run slalom on February 9. She didn’t finish them either, which was particularly amazing because she has already won a gold medal at each of the past Olympics and because she is praised by other female skiers, past and present, for his strong skills and unparalleled ability to complete courses.
The ‘Didn’t finish’ next to his name on the Beijing GS score sheet was his first in over four years. Her 47 career World Cup slalom victories are more than any other runner in any discipline.
As for Shiffrin’s other races, she finished ninth in the super-G and 18th in the downhill, making her Olympic debut in both.
Now she plans to compete in the team event on Saturday, at the end of the alpine calendar.
“She is human; she is like all of us. She’s allowed to have “DNFs” without it being this huge ordeal. It’s ski racing; something bad can happen in a split second. That’s how it goes. We have too many elements and you can’t always be 100% perfect,” said her American teammate Bella Wright, who was also unable to complete the slalom portion of the combined. “It’s really unfortunate and I feel really bad for her. But I’m not worried about her. She’s doing great.
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