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Olympics

After Another DNF in Alpine Combined, Mikaela Shiffrin Has One Last Medal Hope

Switzerland goes 1-2, with Michelle Gisin taking gold. The top American finisher was Tricia Mangan in 11th place.

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According to Mikaela Shiffrin, 60 percent of her career DNF rate has happened at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games. Simply put, over half of the races where Shiffrin has skied out, crashed, or straddled throughout her 10-year career as a World Cup ski racer have all occurred within the past two weeks. That’s a feat within itself.

Following the downhill portion of the women’s alpine combined, all four Americans sat in positions to grab top 10 finishes. Shiffrin in fifth, Keely Cashman in seventh, Isabella Wright in 15th, and Tricia Mangan in 20th. But the pressure was on Shiffrin and Cashman to add to the Team USA medal count. Not to mention slalom is the discipline Shiffrin has dominated for so long. If her slalom DNF earlier in the Games was a fluke, then the combined was her chance to reclaim gold. 

More: Follow SKI’s Full Coverage of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics 

But Shiffrin did not claim gold, or silver, or bronze for that matter. Once again she did not finish. Neither did Cashman, or Wright. Mangan pulled out the best result for the Americans in 11th overall.  

Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin went on to claim gold, one second over her countrywoman Wendy Holdener. Italy’s Federica Brignone claimed bronze. Three finishes that go to show what Shiffrin or Cashman could have done. After the downhill Gisin sat in 12th, Holdener in 11th, and Brignone in eighth. 

Alpine combined medalists
Switzerland went 1-2 in the women’s alpine combined, with Michelle Gisin taking gold and Wendy Holdener earning silver. Federica Brignone of Italy rounded out the podium with the bronze medal. Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

“That is what it is,” said Shiffrin. “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.”

Of course Shiffrin is frustrated with her performance. Any top athlete forced into the Olympic spotlight of a country that nationally ignores winter sports (except once every four years) would be. She’s disappointed for her team, her coaches, her staff, and anybody back home who woke up for the slalom run, thinking she had a shot at medal redemption. And she’s disappointed in herself for not putting on the show she knows her country wanted.

But she’s also fed up with the narrative. 

“Choker,” “fake nice,” “dumb blonde,” “narcissist, ” and “arrogant,” were just a few of the phrases that punctuated a pointed Instagram post from Shiffin in the wee hours of the morning.

“Gone off the deep end,” “didn’t get any medals and now she’s going insane,” “should have left the slope immediately after crashing to get out of the way and out of the spotlight,” “can’t handle the pressure,” “disgrace,” “unacceptable.” 

These are just a handful of messages Shiffrin gets from the peanut gallery on a daily basis. And she’s no longer afraid to acknowledge how aggravated they make her.

“Well kids… feed ‘em what you wanna feed ‘em,” she wrote. “Self pity, sadness, let the turkey’s get you down… or get up, again, again, again, again, again, again. Get up because you can, because you like what you do when it’s not infested with the people who have so much apparent hate for you.”

Her competitors are in her corner. Sofia Goggia, downhill silver medalist, loaned Shiffrin a pair of her downhill skis for the combined with a note that read “Fly Mika, you can.”

Mikaela Shiffrin
“… those first nine turns today were spectacular, really heaven,” said Mikaela Shiffrin of her run before crashing in the slalom portion of the women’s alpine combined. Photo by Alexis Boichard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

Gisin offered her words of encouragement in the finish. “I told her, I feel pretty badass about winning one (World Cup) slalom in my career, but she has 47, so she is 47 times as badass as I am.”

Saturday, Shiffin will join Paula Moltzan, Tommy Ford, and River Radamus to compete in the Olympic Team event for the first time in her career. Then she’ll head back to Europe to continue her hunt for the World Cup overall crystal globe, the standings of which she leads by a 17 point margin over her rival Petra Vlhova. 

“Why do I keep coming back? Gosh knows it hurts more than it feels good lately,” she continued. “I come back because those first nine turns today were spectacular, really heaven. That’s where I’m meant to be. And I’m stubborn as s**t.”

Shiffrin wouldn’t have 73 World Cup wins, 116 World Cup podiums, 11 World Championship medals, eight crystal globes, or three overall titles if she wasn’t stubborn as shit. And Saturday she’ll give one last go at adding to the three Olympic medals that she has back home in her closet.

“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,” she 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.”