Misfiring Shiffrin feels like Olympic ‘joke’

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BEIJING: Mikaela Shiffrin says the prospect of leaving the Beijing Olympics without an individual medal makes her feel like a “joke” and denied that the weight of expectation had been at the root of her misfiring performances.

The American, one of the most recognizable global stars of winter sports, insisted she had come to China at the peak of her powers in her quest to claim at least a third gold in three consecutive Games.

But the 26-year-old fluffed her lines, finishing just two of her five races. She slid out of her favored slalom and giant slalom, as well as the combined in which she is reigning world champion.

“Things were adding up to be just fine,” Shiffrin said after Thursday’s combined.

“There have been challenges the entire way, but it didn’t give me a sign that things were not going to work. That’s the whole shebang in sport: you can have preparation, confidence… and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.

“And I literally have no idea why we keep coming back and doing it, especially after today!”

Shiffrin added: “If I look back on my whole career, I have a lot to show for that, it’s just not now.

“That’s disappointing for me, for my whole team… and anybody back home who woke up today and thought ‘she did a pretty good downhill run, set up pretty well for the slalom… of course she’s going to at least make it to the finish, this could just be the medal that salvages it all’.

“Right now I just feel like a joke.”

Shiffrin joked that she “should probably just quit”.

“But I’m going to come back out tomorrow and ski some parallel giant slalom because I’m that much of an idiot!”

Shiffrin’s three-season streak as overall women’s World Cup champion ended with a sad season marked by the sudden death of her father Jeff in February 2020.

After he passed away she returned home to Colorado and spent more than 300 days off the piste. It was a year, she said, that “felt like 20 years”.

Last season, Shiffrin rebuilt by focusing on the technical events, the slalom and the giant slalom, culminating in a successful 2021 world championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, where she finished on the podium in all four of her races and won the combined event.

Her success on the World Cup stage has seen her rack up 47 slalom wins in a total of 74 victories, second only to retired former teammate Lindsey Vonn in female racing.

The stars, however, failed to align at the Olympic skiing venue in Yanqing, north of Beijing.

First she slid out of the slalom and giant slalom before regaining some pride with ninth place in the super-G and 18th in the downhill.

The combined was her last chance for an individual medal, but that was shot down in flames as she skied out of a slalom section set by her own coach, Mike Day.

“People want to be able to say it’s a pressure thing, there are certain points in the Games where I felt the weight of pressures and expectations, but in general when I was racing it wasn’t something outrageous,” Shiffrin said.

“And it certainly wasn’t more than I’d experienced in my career before.

“The pressure is always there and I don’t feel uncomfortable or even unfamiliar with it.”

Shiffrin admitted to feeling “really disappointed and frustrated”.

“I also know that 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 counted.

“It’s really strange but I’m not even afraid of that, maybe because I have zero emotional energy to give anymore.”

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