Shiffrin’s Olympics ended as they began, with a sudden fall and a frank assessment

YANQING, China – For Mikaela Shiffrin, the most unexpected thing in the Olympic journey culminates as soon as it begins: one more collision, one more disqualification, a more candid assessment of the race that has been won. she lost instead of a race she won.

“Right now,” said Shiffrin, one of the most decorated skiers in history, “I just feel like a joke.”

Her remarks, tinged with emotional honesty that have marked so many of her self-assessments over the past two weeks, come after another run, this time in Alpine combined, that ended with Shiffrin slips off a curve in her hips.

Shiffrin heads to Beijing to win multiple medals in a career that already has two golds and one silver, the next step in her quest to become the most decorated skier to ever compete in the international arena. . Instead, her journey to becoming a superstar is looked into the abyss: two DNFs (unfinished) in slalom and giant slalom, followed by finishing 9th and 18th in super- G and downhill, and then the final DNF on Thursday combined.

“I knew there was going to be a mess that everyone was talking about, about how I’ve failed so dramatically over the past few weeks in what really counts,” Shiffrin said, standing under the relentless snowfall for a while. almost an hour, just fifty yards from the medal she’d never ascended. “It’s really weird, but I’m not even scared of that right now. Maybe it’s because I don’t have the emotional energy to give. ”

Shiffrin said she had planned to ski in a mixed team event on Saturday, although that event, which was only the second, was more of a celebration of skiing than an individual battle. stress to win medals. That would complete her Beijing Olympics itinerary. But on Thursday, she reflected on how it went wrong.

It probably started as soon as she arrived in China and had her first training sessions at the Yanqing National Alpine Center, a course she and the rest of the field had never seen. Rather than predicting the certainty and confidence of a two-time gold medalist and six-time world champion, Shiffrin expressed discomfort with the snow produced and wondered if random winds in the mountains may add uncertainty to the results.

Or maybe it started a few weeks earlier, with the Covid-19 case and 10 days of isolation – and no racing or training – during the holidays, in the middle of the World Cup season. Or maybe even in November, when a backache took away her precious workout, or even two years ago, when her father, Jeff, died suddenly of an accident at the gym. family home in Colorado.

Shiffrin hadn’t competed for nine months after his death, and in a particularly raw moment in Beijing, she lamented that she wished she could call him, to talk through his mistakes and disappointments. her hope.

Whenever it started, it was still unpredictable what happened when Shiffrin took the lead in her first race at around 4:30 a.m. last Monday. She warmed up, had breakfast, and headed up the mountain to check the way right after sunrise.

A few hours later came her first flub, a shaky left turn in the giant slalom and a slip in her hip. Two days later in slalom, her best event, she skied after just five gates.

After the initial fall, she talks about going into a race knowing it’s going to take an intense race from the start to prevail, and then pushing a little too hard, wanting something. too much. Takes deep breaths but refuses to complain. “Waste of energy,” she called it.

Then came a second defeat, and 20 minutes of freezing isolation in the snow next to the court, she occasionally raised her head above her knees to watch a speed competitor pass. When she finally came down, she didn’t bother trying to hold back her tears. “Everything happened so fast,” she said, her voice trembling.

She tries to reset again, but says she’s starting to doubt her instincts in and out of the hill. After finishing ninth in the Super G exam two days later, Shiffrin shared a recurring dream she had, of seeing herself fail the fifth gate over and over.

She spoke of a “huge disappointment” over her failures, but also the relief at the achievement of simply crossing the finish line. “It was really good for my heart,” she said.

But before going downhill, Shiffrin acknowledged the dangers inherent in such a safe race, and when she finished 18th, she said she knew why. In the moments of feeling the speed increase, she admits, she can’t let go, stop thinking, freely ski. “A gift and a curse,” she said of her overactive mind.

Thursday’s combined event – one downhill and one downhill – provided an opportunity to showcase her versatility.

She attacked downhill, her formation was so aggressive that she rammed two gates at the top of the track, and crossed the road in fifth place, perfectly positioned behind the leader. more than half a second. With her speed overrun and her favorite slum looming in the early afternoon, she told the mountain elephant.

“I had to get over the image that I was going to be skiing at the fifth gate,” she said.

As it turned out, the first five hurdles were fine, even fun, she’d say later. But four gates later her balance began to go as she turned the corner. Instantly, Shiffrin’s knees were covered in snow. She spent a few minutes sitting by the side of the field again before sliding down, stopping just before the end to lean towards Italy’s Nicol Delago, who had a collision and slipped 100 meters in the snow. Then she put on a jacket and watched her teammates ski.

She did feel pressure, she admitted when she finally spoke to reporters, but also a calm, feeling that she could skate a clean slalom run, as she did. thousands of times before. And then somehow she couldn’t. She was prepared, she said, and it was not yet her turn.

As she spoke, the medals were awarded after her: Michelle Gisin of Switzerland won her second consecutive Olympic gold medal in the event, beating her teammate Wendy Holdener by more than a second and Federica Italy’s Brignone is close to two.

Shiffrin will continue to seek a medal of his own, for the sake of understanding, will continue. Saturday offers one last race, one last chance to salvage a Game she might want to forget.

“I really don’t know why we keep going back and doing that,” Shiffrin said, “especially after today.” Shiffrin’s Olympics ended as they began, with a sudden fall and a frank assessment

Fry Electronics Team

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