Shiffrin arrived at the Winter Olympics looking to win a third consecutive gold at a Games, but after crashing out of the alpine combined event, the 26-year-old has incredibly suffered 60% of her career DNF’s at the National Alpine Skiing Centre this month.
She had already failed to finish in her favorite disciplines – the slalom and giant slalom – earlier in the Games, events that had reaped gold at Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018 respectively.
Yet when asked whether her rocky start in Beijing had played on her mind heading into the combined event, an exasperated Shiffrin asserted that she had no intention of skiing safe just to finish.
“It was not actually that much to ask for from myself, and I was starting to do it, and then I was out anyway,” Shiffrin said.
“I don’t really understand it, and I’m not sure when I’m going to have much of an explanation. I can’t explain to you how frustrated I am to not know what I can learn from today.”
Despite her disappointing start to the Games, Shiffrin had started well in the combined event, placing fifth in the downhill course to put her within range of a podium finish heading into the deciding slalom run.
“I finally felt I could really trust my instincts in the track,” Shiffrin said after her downhill run, and maintained that – despite the permanent presence of pressure – she had carried a “calm, solid mentality” into the slalom.
“The most disappointing thing, beyond walking away from the Games with no individual medals … is that I had multiple opportunities to ski slalom on this track, and I failed in all of them,” Shiffrin said.
“That’s disappointing for me, it’s disappointing for my whole team, for the coaches, for everybody who’s been working so hard, and it’s disappointing for anybody back home who woke up and thought, especially today, ‘Hey, she did a pretty good downhill run, set up pretty well for the slalom.’
“Right now, I just feel like a joke.”
‘I don’t have any emotional energy to give any more’
Shiffrin said she will be back out on the slopes tomorrow to practice for her final shot at a medal in Saturday’s mixed team event, wherein she will become only the second woman to race all six alpine skiing events at the Winter Olympics.
Yet far from rejuvenated for a final flourish, Shiffrin said that Thursday’s disappointment had left her emotionally spent.
“There’s going to be a whole chaotic mess of crap that people are saying about how I just fantastically failed these last couple of weeks in the moments that actually counted,” Shiffrin said.
“It’s really strange, but I’m not even afraid of that right now, and maybe it’s because I don’t have any emotional energy to give any more.”
Swiss skier Michelle Gisin later took gold in the alpine combined, roaring back from 12th after the downhill course to dominate the slalom run and clinch gold ahead of compatriot Wendy Holdener, who won silver.
Italy’s Federica Brignone took bronze, while Czech star Ester Ledecká placed fourth – dashing her hopes of a second gold medal to add to her snowboarding giant slalom title.
Calling out social media critics
Hours after the race, Shiffrin posted several screenshots on her Instagram account in what appears to be her calling out critics, publishing five posts on her Instagram Stories.
The first four showed words and phrases written in text filled with harsh criticism, including “Choker” … ” Can’t handle the pressure” … “Arrogant”… “Disgrace. Unacceptable.”
Shiffrin concluded with a fifth post that offered encouragement, writing in part, “Well kids…feed ‘em what you wanna feed em. Self pity, sadness… Let the turkey’s get you down. There will always be turkeys.
“Or get up, again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Again. Get up because you can, because you like what you do when its (sic) not infested with the people who have so much apparent hate for you. Just get up.”
“It’s not always easy, but it’s also not the end of the world to fail. Fail twice. Fail 5 times. At the Olympics. (Enter me…) Why do I keep coming back? Gosh knows it hurts more than it feels good lately. I come back because those first 9 turns today were spectacular, really heaven. That’s where I’m meant to be and I’m stubborn as S**t.”