While Mikaela Shiffrin didn't medal in the women's super-G on Thursday night, her run was still a valuable one.
The two-time gold medalist and three-time medalist had a nightmarish start to the 2022 Winter Games. She skied out during her first run in both the slalom and giant slalom, the latter of which she was the reigning Olympic champion in.
After that 10-plus-year streak came to an end, Shiffrin was left second-guessing her own skiing and racing mentality. So when the now 26-year-old completed her first-ever Olympic super-G run with a time of 1:14.30, which earned her a ninth-place finish, she was able to breathe a big sigh of relief.
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"It was quite a big relief," Shiffrin said. "After the last days, what I expected from the feeling of the course is not how it went. I skied a little bit of super-G yesterday and went for the race today, and it felt really nice. It’s the one thing that makes a little bit of sense, that how I thought the trail was going to run, and how it might feel, was pretty much how it did, and I was able to handle it, which I was questioning a lot the last days.
"Today I proved to myself that I can still trust my instincts a bit. That’s really, really huge."
Shiffrin received an outpouring of support as she went through one of the lowest moments of her competitive career, with fellow American Olympic stars like Lindsey Vonn and Simone Biles sharing messages of encouragement. And to Shiffrin, that's actually been "the most surprising" aspect of her Olympic experience.
"I don’t feel like I deserve it," Shiffrin said of the support. "It’s been insane how many people have reached out and just trying to cheer me up. Every time someone sends a message, I’m just thinking you don’t have to waste your time on me because I’m going to be fine. I have Olympic medals, I have great success, a lot of triumphant moments, and plenty to be happy about over the last years.
"I would never have expected to feel in this moment, severely underperforming in Olympics, I would have never have felt that humans could be so kind. It’s the most surprising thing of my Olympic experience -- how kind people have been in the face of my failure. It is failure. It’s OK to say that, I am OK with that. And I’m sorry for it, but I also was trying, and I’m proud of that."
Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
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Shiffrin had been hoping to compete in all five individual alpine skiing events in Beijing, but whether she winds up doing that is still up in the air.
The next event Shiffrin could partake in is the downhill, which takes place on Monday, Feb. 14. She said will go through the downhill training sessions scheduled for the next few days before making a decision on whether she will compete.