After failing to get an individual medal in the Beijing Olympics, and not being able to even complete three of the events she was in, Mikaela Shiffrin said that she feels like a "joke" — and even worse, doesn't know what has gone wrong.
Shiffrin’s latest mistake of the Winter Games came Thursday in the second leg of the combined, which adds the times from one downhill run and one slalom run. The American stood fifth after the downhill, certainly in contention for a higher finish considering slalom has been her signature event, but she encountered trouble after about 10 seconds, missed a gate and ended up landing on her hip.
"I wanted to ski just a good run of slalom, and I don't know. I feel like a joke," she said in an interview after the race. "I don't know if anybody's failed that hard with so many opportunities maybe in the history of the Olympics. But I will take it, I mean, it is a joke."
Shiffrin will leave the 2022 Olympic Games without an individual medal after participating in all five women’s events, going 0 for 5 in those — and did not even manage to complete three of those races.
"I've never had the experience where actually good skiing had this kind of mistakes. I mean, it wasn't even actually a mistake ... I was just trying to give my feet a bit of space, find my rhythm. I got my rhythm, I accelerated off the pitch — everything there was just exactly in line with what I wanted to feel, what my best slalom can produce," she said of her performance in the slalom portion. "I don't know if it was some combination of, like, driver error, maybe a small little track in the snow and maybe I can't see it and I didn't react quick enough or whatever it was."
Shiffrin said that she was relaxed mentally, joking around with others before the race and made some changes going into the event. Even as she was beginning her run, things felt smooth and right, she said — until they weren't.
"You know the saying 'doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is insanity'? Well, I was doing something different. I was just shaking out my shoulders, smiling a bit. I had quite a lot of fun today. Even skiing the slalom, the first six turns I was like, 'Oh my gosh, this is the feeling I want to have. Thank goodness.' And just pushing, and feeling the good feeling. And I just wanted to have it a little bit longer," she said.
Shiffrin did say that despite her results, there were plenty of positives that came from the last two weeks, both from the support she has received and even in her skiing.
"I had some of the best skiing I've ever done here in Beijing. 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," she said. "So I don't understand it, but there was so much positive that's happened in the last couple weeks, despite how much it really stinks. Sometimes you have to take it."
Even more frustrating for Shiffrin: She has not been able to identify any noticeable fixes she needs to make in order to improve.
"I don't think there's actually something to fix. It just went really, really wrong. Because I didn't feel that I was supposed to win today, I didn't feel pressure. I was joking around, saying 'Maybe I'll make it past the fifth gate,'" she said. "I did make it past the sixth gate or fifth gate or whatever it was. But I wasn't holding back, wasn't pushing too hard, and it still didn't work. So that's just annoying. That's just what it is."