BEIJING—Mikaela Shiffrin completed the super-G at the Beijing Olympics on Friday in a time way out of medal contention—but for the first time in three races at the 2022 Games, she made it to the finish.
The two-time Olympic Alpine gold medalist crossed the line at the bottom of a course known as The Rock with a time of one minute and 14.30 seconds. That left her 0.79 seconds behind champion Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland and in ninth place overall after all 44 entrants had taken their turns down the slope.
Shiffrin failed to finish her opening run in the two-leg events that preceded the super-G in Beijing: the giant slalom and the slalom, both of which she won at past Olympics. On Friday, she called her skiing “a little bit uncertain—or very uncertain.”
“Training has felt really good, but when we got to the race, it felt different than I thought it would to make the turns. Different enough that I didn’t finish,” she said with a bit of a laugh. “A lot of disappointment over the last week. There’s a lot of emotions and not really easy to reset and know if I was up to the challenge today.”
The 26-year-old American never had entered a super-G at an Olympics before, although she did win a gold in the event at the 2019 world championship and a bronze at last year’s worlds.
“I didn’t think there was a very big chance to come in and win, or even medal, in this race,” Shiffrin said. “It’s a really big relief to be here now in the finish…. I wasn’t skiing safe or anything. But I also did get to the finish and that’s really nice for my heart to know.”
Shiffrin actually started well enough Friday, reaching the initial check point in 12.66 seconds—ahead of Gut-Behrami’s pace.
But from there, Shiffrin lost touch with the leader, losing hundredths, then tenths, of seconds along the way.
The Beijing Olympics hardly went to plan for Shiffrin at the outset. Couldn’t have gotten off to a worse start, really.
First came Monday’s giant slalom, which she won at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics. She teetered out of control and failed to properly handle a turn after five gates—her day was done about 10 seconds into the first leg of a two-run event.
That was followed by Wednesday’s slalom, which she won at the 2014 Sochi Games to become, at 18, the youngest women’s champion in that race in Olympic history. Quite similar to the GS, she skidded wildly on a turn after five gates—this time, her day was done five seconds into the first leg of a two-run event.
What was so hard for fans, and Shiffrin, to believe is that not only are the slalom and giant slalom her two best races, and have been for years, but she almost never makes the sort of mistake that results in a “Did Not Finish” next to her name on the result sheet.
The flub in the giant slalom created her first “DNF” in that event since January 23, 2018, a streak of 30 races. Her 47 World Cup slalom wins are more than any other skier in any Alpine event in history.
After that second surprisingly quick exit Wednesday, Shiffrin cast some doubt on whether she even would be on the slope Friday, saying: “If I’m going to ski out on the fifth gate, like, what’s the point?”
But then she went out Thursday with other athletes for the two allowed practice trips on the super-G competition hill. A few hours later, the US ski team announced that Shiffrin would, indeed, be on the start list.
About 4 1/2 hours before Friday’s race began, Shiffrin posted on Twitter, writing: “Today is Super G, and Super G is fun. I can’t express how grateful I am to have the opportunity to refocus on a new race, in the sport that I love so much. Onward.”
She also said: “I’ve had a lot of support over the last 48 hours and I have to thank everyone for that.”
The next women’s Alpine event is the downhill on Tuesday. While Shiffrin planned to enter all five individual races in Beijing, it’s not known for sure whether that actually will end up happening.