Le Pays De France - Shiffrin rebounds in Olympic super-G to banish demons

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Shiffrin rebounds in Olympic super-G to banish demons
Shiffrin rebounds in Olympic super-G to banish demons

Shiffrin rebounds in Olympic super-G to banish demons

Mikaela Shiffrin admitted Friday to having had a recurring nightmare about bombing out of the Olympic super-G five gates into the race, just as she had done in her two opening events.

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But the 26-year-old American landed a ninth place after an emotionally draining week following two botched events that left her questioning her inner strength.

Shiffrin had come into the Beijing Games as one of the most recognisable faces in winter sports, already a two-time Olympic gold medallist, a star on the World Cup circuit and a four-time world slalom champion.

But the 26-year-old, her own harshest critic, had a disastrous start in her quest for a third gold, skiing out of the both the giant slalom and slalom early in the race.

They were two remarkable outcomes from a woman who has won 73 World Cup races. Only now-retired teammate Lindsey Vonn has won more in female racing.

In fact the last time Shiffrin failed to finish two consecutive technical events dates back to December 2011 when she was a fresh-faced 16-year-old in her inaugural World Cup season.

"There's been a lot of disappointment over the last week," Shiffrin acknowledged after the super-G won by Switzerland's Lara Gut-Behrami.

"There's a lot of emotions. It wasn't really easy to reset and know if I was up for the challenge today.

"But coming back out and getting the chance to race again was just the perfect thing to do, actually."

Shiffrin, who has more than one million followers on Instagram, said she fully accepted bearing the weight of expectation coming into these Games, not just from herself but also a demanding public used to success.

"A lot of athletes have said before that pressure's a privilege, and it truly is, to be in the position that I come to the Olympics and I'm a contender, and actually expected to medal in multiple events.

"That's spectacular!" she explained. "But it's an enormous letdown when it doesn't happen.

"I can go back and say I've won medals before in my career and that's wonderful, but it doesn't take away any hurt or disappointment from these races."

Acknowledging failure, and also deciding not to walk away and hide but get back out there on skis, were essential, Shiffrin said.

"Failure is a scary word, and disappointment, all the negative words, because we're supposed to be kind to ourselves. And that's OK," she said.

- 'Harsh words' -

"But I do consider it failure. I think a lot of people do.

"It's just tough to see that word in the headline of an article, and it feels like clickbait to say 'crashes out, fails, disappoints the world, chokes'.

"They're just harsh words, but I've finally come to terms with that being a little bit part of what we're doing here.

"I've had a lot of moments where I didn't fail as well, so it all comes out in the wash in the end."

Turning to her super-G race, Shiffrin said that "there was nothing sad about today".

"I didn’t think there was a big chance coming in to win or even medal in this race against women who have been skiing super-G all season on top form, top level, and came here especially for this," she said.

A decision was taken late, Shiffrin added, on whether she would race depending on how training runs went after the emotional fatigue and "sense of dullness" over the last week.

"When we got out today I just felt a little bit more settled, a little bit quieter, trying to keep some calmness and just trying to focus on the task at hand.

"So I could put my attention where I wanted and ski the hill and the course properly," she said.

"It's a really big relief to be here now in the finish... that's really nice for my heart to know that it's not totally abandoning everything I thought I knew about the sport."