Moltzan 8th; Shiffrin DNF In Slalom
In her Olympic debut, Minnesota's Paula Moltzan has racked up back-to-back impressive results. Following her 12th-place finish in the giant slalom on Monday, Moltzan led the way on Wednesday with an impressive eighth-place result. Teammate and two-time Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin did not finish.
It’s not often that Shiffrin falls, but when she does, it’s heartbreaking. Not because she’s failed, but because her love for competition and executing fast, precise turns is so powerful that her utter disappointment is palpable.
At 26, life and loss have humbled Shiffrin. She's experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. And she’s not afraid of the weight of external expectation anymore; it’s not the worst thing she’s ever experienced, she says. What she does feel is betrayed, betrayed by the number one thing she trusts most in the world – her skiing.
After skiing out at the fifth gate in her second consecutive race of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games, Shiffrin moved to the side of the slalom course, took a moment, then quickly popped off her skis. She sat, resting her head on her knees, and stayed there for 25 minutes before skiing down to the finish.
She walked reporters through what happened. She slipped. She was going full gas, and she didn’t have space to recover. It’s ski racing, and things happen fast. At one moment, she was charging, and the next, she was out of the course. Her emotions ran high, and Shiffrin fought to keep her composure.
When asked what she was still processing after her run, she took a deep breath and sighed. “Pretty much everything.”
“My entire career has taught me to trust in my skiing if it’s good skiing,” Shiffrin explained later on. “That’s all that I have to rely on these race days. When there is pressure, and there’s some nerves and the feeling that I want to do well, I just always go back to that fundamental idea that good skiing will be there for me.”
“It’s not the end of the world, and it’s so stupid to care this much,” she added fighting back tears. “But I feel…I feel that I have to question a lot now.”
In moments of self-doubt, Shiffrin used to turn to her father Jeff for support. Since his passing in 2020, that source of comfort is forever lost. “Right now, I would really like to call him,” she choked. “So that doesn’t make it easier. And he would probably tell me to just get over it, but he’s not here to say that.”
Shiffrin paused again and took a moment to flip through the onslaught of emotions. Residual grief from her father's loss, disappointment in herself for not skiing up to her standard, and guilt that she has put herself and her team through so much work, all for nothing. Until she found the thing she needed to help put things in perspective, the thing that’s kept her on skis these past couple of years – hope.
“Despite everything that I’m feeling,” she continued. “If you take a look around, it’s a pretty beautiful day. I have incredible teammates here. One of them got a silver medal yesterday. My boyfriend is here, he got a bronze. He’s been working so hard to get an Olympic medal his whole career and he’s had some really bad luck. And I have three medals. I mean, those are still back home in my closet. As disappointed as I feel and as much as I’m feeling right now, there’s so much to be optimistic about.”
Shiffrin’s absence on the pitch did not take away from an American reason to celebrate. Moltzan had a fantastic first run that put her in sixth and allowed her to hang on to an eighth-place finish by the end of the second run. Katie Hensien posted a top 30 in her Olympic debut, in 26th. AJ Hurt finished 34th. And Shiffrin was there in the finish to cheer them on until the end.
“I’m pretty grateful to have some teammates that are also strong and can put on this show because on a basic level for ski racing in the United States, it's so special to have such a strong group of women competing,” she said. “I feel like my performance is a huge letdown so far. But there’s so much to be proud of for my teammates.”
If she decides to ski, Shiffrin has another shot at an Olympic medal come Thursday, Feb. 10th, in the women's super-G.