Mikaela Shiffrin’s dream Olympics is fast turning into a nightmare.
The 26-year-old overall World Cup leader was disqualified from her second race in three days on Wednesday morning after missing a gate early in the first run of the women’s slalom, her signature event, leaving her bid for potential record medal haul in tatters.
Shiffrin, the seventh racer out of the starting gate, sat in the snow alongside the netting on the side of the course with her head bowed in disbelief for several minutes as her rivals continued their runs down the steep technical course known as the Ice River.
The shock result came two days after the American skied out during her first run of the giant slalom, ending her Olympic title defense only seconds into her Beijing debut. Shiffrin had failed to finish a race only twice in four years entering the Winter Games and 13 times in a total of 228 starts across all disciplines at World Cup, Olympic and world championship events.
“Pretty awful,” Shiffrin said afterward in the mixed zone. “But it won’t feel awful for ever. I just feel pretty low right now.”
She added: “I was pushing out of the start. I had full intentions of skiing as hard as I could. 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. I was planning to go on the most aggressive line, the most challenging line to ski.”
Germany’s Lena Dürr was first down the course among the top-seeded skiers in a time of 52.17sec, a scant 0.03sec ahead of Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin. Sara Hector of Sweden, who won gold in Monday’s giant slalom, was 0.12sec off the pace in third.
Shiffrin, whose three Olympic medals include gold in slalom in 2014 and in giant slalom in 2018, has said her plan is to race all five individual events in Beijing. Her next chance at becoming the first US alpine skier to win three Olympic golds will come Friday in the super-G.
Once a teenage prodigy who became the youngest Olympic slalom champion in history at the Sochi Games, Shiffrin has since blossomed from a specialist into the world’s best all-around skier, branching out into the speed events with success and becoming the only skier, male or female, to win World Cup races in all six disciplines.
Her 73 career wins on alpine skiing’s top circuit are third-most on the all-time leaderboard, trailing only Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark (86) and longtime US team-mate Lindsey Vonn (82).
Shiffrin’s failure to finish either of her races so far is the latest sour note in what’s been a bleak Beijing Olympics for Team USA to date.
The Americans’ longest-ever wait for their first gold at a Winter Games stretched to 31 events on Tuesday and several of their warmest medal contenders have finished off the podium entirely, among them defending Olympic champion Red Gerard (men’s snowboard slopestyle) and speed skaters Brittany Bowe (women’s 1500m) and Joey Mantia (men’s 1500m).