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Olympic star Mikaela Shiffrin doesn't finish a second race at the 2022 Winter Games

Three-time Olympic medalist Mikaela Shiffrin skis out in the first run of the women's slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday on Feb. 9, 2022.
Robert F. Bukaty
/
AP
Three-time Olympic medalist Mikaela Shiffrin skis out in the first run of the women's slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Wednesday on Feb. 9, 2022.

BEIJING — After skiing just five seconds into the first qualifying run of Wednesday's women's slalom at the Beijing Olympics, U.S. Olympic star Mikaela Shiffrin went off course and bailed out.

It was a shocking development and continued a difficult Olympics for the champion. Her failure to finish the slalom — her best discipline — cost her another chance at gold.

"I was pushing out of the start. I had full intentions of skiing as hard as I could," Shiffrin said of her run.

This is the second time Shiffrin, a prior gold medalist in this event, didn't finish a competition at Beijing. Just two days ago, during the women's giant slalom qualifying run, Shiffrin slipped and didn't finish.

The last time Shiffrin did not to finish a slalom race in the first qualifying run was in January 2017 during a World Cup competition in Zagreb, Croatia, according to the International Ski Federation.

On Wednesday, her start to the course was rocky and she wasn't able to regain composure.

"I slipped up a little bit on one turn and I just didn't give myself room to make any kind of error like that," she said.

Once she lost her footing, she did not get back on track.

After faltering, she skied off to the side of the course and sat down, bowing her head in her arms, and looked dejected. She didn't get up for many minutes even as other competitors skied by. Several team members had to go down to her to usher her off the course.

Afterwards, Shiffrin discussed how she felt. "Pretty awful, yeah. But it won't feel awful for ever. I just feel pretty low right now."

Shiffrin sits on the side of the course after skiing out in the first run of the women's slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Robert F. Bukaty / AP
/
AP
Shiffrin sits on the side of the course after skiing out in the first run of the women's slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Shiffrin was the seventh skier to take to the course, but was the first not to finish the competition.

Former Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn tweeted support for Shiffrin, telling her this mistake, "does not take away from her storied career and what she can and will accomplish going forward."

The Beijing Olympics were supposed to be Shiffrin's chance to become the first Alpine ski racer from the U.S. to win three Olympic gold medals.

She may still compete in other events including the downhill, super-G, Alpine combined and mixed team parallel. She said she has to refocus to see if any of those events are in the cards.

"I will try to re-set again. Maybe try to re-set better this time but I also don't know how to do better because I just don't," she said. "I have never been in this position before and I don't know how to handle it."

Shiffrin is the all-time winningest slalom champion with 47 world cup victories in this discipline.

She has dealt with a series of personal obstacles leading up to her third Olympics. Her father, Jeff Shiffrin, passed away unexpectedly in 2020. Following his death, she said she thought often about retiring. That same year she also dealt with a back injury.

After her struggles Wednesday, Shiffrin said the absence of her father was top of mind.

"It does give me perspective but right now, I would really like to call him," she said. "So, that doesn't make it easier. He would probably tell me to get over it. But he's not here to say that, so on top of everything else I am pretty angry at him too."

Shiffrin still looked to the positive: a beautiful day at the slopes and supportive medal-winning teammates and boyfriend, Norway's Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

"And I have three medals, those are still back home in my closet," she said. "As disappointed as I feel and as much as I am feeling right now, there is so much to be optimistic about right now. It's just that there feels like there is a lot to be disappointed about right now."

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