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Mikaela Shiffrin crashes in 3rd race — but will rise for one last Olympics test

Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. competes during the Women's alpine combined at the Olympics on Thursday in Yanqing, China. After losing her last shot at an individual medal, she will compete in a team event on Saturday.
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Mikaela Shiffrin of the U.S. competes during the Women's alpine combined at the Olympics on Thursday in Yanqing, China. After losing her last shot at an individual medal, she will compete in a team event on Saturday.

American skier Mikaela Shiffrin appeared poised for a comeback this week, finishing in 9th place in women's super-G last Friday after previously failing to finish her top events.

And she entered the slalom portion — her best event — of Thursday's alpine combined race in fifth place, following the downhill portion. But she crashed about 10 gates into her run, recording her third "did not finish" out of five events at these Winter Games.

The race was her last chance to win an individual medal in Beijing. But she has one more shot at the podium, in the mixed team parallel slalom competition on Saturday.

"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 ...)," Shiffrin tweeted in a statement on Thursday. "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."

The 26-year-old previously won Olympic medals in the giant slalom, slalom and the combined, but didn't cross the finish line in any of those events this time around. She noted that 60% of her DNFs for her entire career have happened in Beijing.

"I don't really understand it. And I'm not sure when I'm going to have much of an explanation," Shiffrin told reporters after the race. "And I can't explain to you how frustrated I am to not know what I can learn from the day."

She said that while she has at times felt the weight of pressure and expectation at the Olympics, "in general, when I was racing, it wasn't the case." She expressed frustration that there weren't any identifiable mistakes for her to fix in order to improve.

"I wanted to ski just a good run of slalom, and I don't know. I feel like a joke," she told NBC. "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."

Despite her results, Shiffrin said the last two weeks have brought plenty of positives both in terms of her skiing and the support she's received from others.

"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."

Michelle Gisin of Switzerland won Thursday's race, with her teammate Wendy Holdener taking home silver and Italy's Federica Brignone winning bronze.

And Shiffrin wasn't the only American to not finish the course: Isabella Wright and Keely Cashman also skied out. American Tricia Mangan finished 11th.

Shiffrin confirmed on Twitter that she will train for the team event on Friday and participate on Saturday.

"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 told reporters. "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 anymore."

With that, ESPN reports, she will become just the second woman in history to compete in all six Alpine events in the Olympics.


This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.