Defending champion Shiffrin slides out of Olympic giant slalom
US ski star Mikaela Shiffrin's bid for a third Olympic gold medal failed at the first hurdle as she dramatically slid out of the women's giant slalom on Monday.
As defending champion, Shiffrin was among the favourites for the race at the Beijing Games, but lasted only a handful of gates before she slipped wide and was unable to regain her line.
It is a hammer blow for Shiffrin, who also won slalom gold at the 2014 Sochi Games, but the 26-year-old vowed to quickly refocus on Wednesday's shorter technical event in which she is a four-time world champion.
"There's a huge disappointment, not even counting medals," she said. "The day was finished basically before it even started."
She said the Yanqing course was "beautiful yet unforgiving".
"Anytime you go on the side like that, it's just a mistiming of where and how you're pressuring the turn," she added.
"I rarely go out in GS (giant slalom). The easiest thing to say is that I skied a couple of good turns and one turn wrong and I paid the consequences.
"The surface is incredible, but it's not forgiving. It is different from what we normally ski, but it is kind of a beautiful surface to ski."
The American had complained before the race that she had had just two days of giant slalom training in the three months between the World Cup season opener in Soelden, Austria, and the meet in the French resort of Courchevel in December.
"I got the bulk of my GS training for the entire season in the last four days here in Beijing," she said, describing that as "not ideal".
- 'Not going to cry' -
A back injury and 10 days spent in isolation after contracting Covid-19 also did not help her preparations, Shiffrin added.
"I will never get over this," she said. "I've never gotten over any.
"I'm not going to cry about this because that's just wasting energy. My best chance for the next races is to move forward, to refocus and I feel like I'm in a good place to do that.
"I don't know about the medals, but I know my skiing is good and I know that even my GS skiing is good... But you just don't know what's going to happen.
"I'm going to do my very best to keep the right mentality and keep pushing and that's it."
Sweden's Sara Hector sat in pole position after topping times in the first leg with 57.56 seconds, 0.30sec ahead of Austrian Katharina Truppe, with just two other racers within 1sec.
Slovak Petra Vlhova, the six-time world championship medallist, was 1.78sec off the pace while reigning world champion Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland was at 1.51.
The discipline is raced over two runs on the same slope, with the starting order for the second run, like the slalom, dependent on results from the first run: the skier placed 30th will start, with the leader running last.
The format means there's a nerve-racking run-in on the second run, scheduled for 1:45pm (0545 GMT), when racers push themselves to the limit in a bid to post the fastest combined time.