US Olympic alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin is refusing to do any more interviews at the Beijing Games after she burst into tears in an interview with NBC following a disappointing disqualification on Wednesday.
Considered one of Team USA‘s top medal contenders, Shiffrin has now been disqualified twice for early mistakes in the slalom and giant slalom — events she won at the 2014 and 2018 Games, respectively.
Without pointing a finger at NBC, which has faced criticism for their coverage of Shiffrin, a Team USA spokesperson told media that the decorated skier is done with media for the time being.
‘Mikaela (nor her mother/coach Eileen) will not be doing any media for the foreseeable future,’ read the statement. ‘Thank you for respecting her/their space right now.’
She is still expected to race in Friday’s Super-G.
Shiffrin’s boyfriend, Norwegian skier Aleskander Aamodt Kilde, described her as being ‘in a good state; she’s all right.’
‘She’s a hero and she can handle this. She handles pressure like no one else, and this is something she will come out of,’ said Kilde, who won a silver Thursday in Alpine combined. ‘But it’s been a couple of tough days.’
Mikaela Shiffrin (pictured) is refusing to do any more interviews at the Beijing Games after her tearful exchange with NBC following a disappointing disqualification on Wednesday
A visibly shaken Mikaela Shiffrin struggled to explain her second shocking exit from an Olympic alpine skiing race this week, admitting to reporters that her performance at the 2022 Beijing Games can already be considered ‘a really big letdown’
Shiffrin reacts after her second disqualification at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics
NBC’s coverage of Shiffrin’s second disqualification has been slammed for focusing so intently on her disappointment. Some viewers compared it with the harsh spotlight on gymnast Simone Biles, whose mental health concerns prompted her to drop out of some events at last year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
Shiffrin lasted all of five seconds before things went awry in Wednesday’s first run of the two-leg slalom, which was about half as long as Team USA‘s two-time gold medalist stayed on course in Monday’s first run of the two-leg giant slalom.
‘I think I just slipped,’ Shiffrin told NBC on Wednesday. ‘I mean I had every intention to go full gas and there wasn’t really space in the course to… I don’t know, to slip, not even a little bit. I didn’t give myself space for that.
‘It makes me second guess the last 15 years, everything I thought I knew about my own skiing and slalom and racing mentality,’ she continued during the emotional interview. ‘Just processing a lot for sure. And I feel really bad. There’s a lot more going on today than just my little situation, but I feel really bad doing that.’
She began losing her balance and teetering out of control just four seconds and four gates in, swerving too far as she veered to her right. The neon yellow handle of her right ski pole scraped along the snow as she ended up way wide of the fifth gate. Shiffrin went over to the side of the course, clicked out of her skis and plopped herself down on the ground, shaking her head, then resting it on her arms atop her bent knees.
She began losing her balance and teetering out of control just four seconds and four gates in, swerving too far as she veered to her right. The neon yellow handle of her right ski pole scraped along the snow as she ended up way wide of the fifth gate. Shiffrin went over to the side of the course, clicked out of her skis and plopped herself down on the ground, shaking her head, then resting it on her arms atop her bent knees
Shiffrin arrived with plans to enter all five individual races at the Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center, and another gold would make her only the second woman to win at least one from Alpine at three Olympics in a row. So far, though, Shiffrin is 0 for 2
Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States sits on the side of the course after skiing out in the first run of the women’s slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics
Team members console Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States after she skied out in the first run of the women’s slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics
NBC has offered a full-throated defense of how it covered her shocking Olympics flameout, to the point of suggesting there’s sexism involved in the criticism.
NBC’s cameras focused on Shiffrin for much of the time as she sat forlornly on the course, head bowed, for more than 20 minutes. The network aired a raw interview where she fought off tears and said she’s second-guessing everything she’s done for 15 years.
For the second straight Olympics, the emotional health of athletes performing on the biggest stage has become a focus of discussion. The experiences of gymnast Simone Biles and tennis player Naomi Osaka last summer were fresh in the mind of NBC’s critics, and the online blowback was fierce.
As one response on Twitter put it: ‘Show some empathy.’ NBC, said another, was ‘shaming’ Shiffrin — ‘torturing’ her. ‘The relentless hype machine,’ one critic wrote, ‘has claimed another victim.’
No — NBC was doing its job, said Molly Solomon, executive producer of NBC’s Olympics coverage.
‘We have an obligation in that moment, as the broadcaster of the Olympic games, to cover the moment,’ Solomon said in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday evening. ‘There’s no script when there’s a wipeout on the slopes or a fall in figure skating. We’re watching real people with real emotions in real time and we did everything we were supposed to do.’
Former Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn told Shiffrin to ‘keep your head high’ in a post-race tweet
Shiffrin’s performance was huge news, she said — the biggest story of the Games so far.
‘I’ve thought a lot about this, and if Joe Burrow or Matthew Stafford sit on the sidelines 22 minutes after the Super Bowl on Sunday, you can bet the cameras are going to stay on them,’ Solomon said.
‘Here we are in 2022 and we have a double standard in coverage of women’s sports,’ she said. ‘Women’s sports should be analyzed through the same lens as the men. The most famous skier in the world did not finish her two best events. So we are going to show her sitting on the hill and analyze what went wrong. You bet we are.’
As much as fans enjoy reveling in triumph, disappointment in sport — or any endeavor — is often the more compelling story. ‘More people relate to heartbreak than anything else,’ ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser said on ‘Pardon the Interruption’ on Wednesday.
It was evident in an interview Shiffrin gave to NBC after she spun out in her first Olympics race how much it was weighing on her. She apologized to viewers: ‘I’m sorry that that was the performance that I did today,’ she said.
Speaking with NBC’s Todd Lewis following Wednesday’s race, Shiffrin’s eyes filled with tears.
She was second-guessing, she said, ‘the last 15 years, everything that I thought I knew about my own skiing and slalom and racing methods.’
For the second straight Olympics, the emotional health of athletes performing on the biggest stage has become a focus of discussion. The experiences of gymnast Simone Biles (left) and tennis player Naomi Osaka last summer were fresh in the mind of NBC’s critics, and the online blowback was fierce
Simon Biles (center) pictured at the 2020 Tokyo Games
Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, of Norway celebrates with his silver during the medal ceremony for the the men’s combined at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Kilde, Shiffrin’s boyfriend, told reporters that she is handling this adversity well, and he expects ‘this is something she will come out of’
At the same time, critics were second-guessing NBC’s role in the pressure placed on Shiffrin, who was anointed as one of the presumed stars before the Games even started. In a segment broadcast before her second race, former ski racer and now NBC analyst Lindsey Vonn said that ‘this is a must-medal situation for Mikaela. The stakes could not be higher.’
After the race, Vonn tweeted that she was ‘gutted for Mikaela Shiffrin but this does not take away from her storied career and what she can and will accomplish going forward.’
Biles, the star gymnast who put the spotlight on mental health in athletics in Tokyo last year when she withdrew from several events, tweeted heart emojis directed toward Shiffrin on Wednesday.
She also retweeted a comment by writer Charlotte Clymer, who said that ‘shaming people just because they didn’t perform well at the Olympics feels like the opposite of why we supposedly have the Olympics in the first place.’
NBC pointed out that Shiffrin was a world-class athlete enriched by endorsement deals with her face emblazoned on billboards.
If NBC was playing an expectations game, it wasn’t alone.
‘Let’s all remember, Mikaela Shiffrin is a professional athlete who has won 73 times and (has) three Olympic gold medals,’ Solomon said. ‘She one of the greatest alpine skiers of all time. She’s 26 years old and incredibly accomplished. So, for all of us, of course she’s going to be one of the centerpieces of the Games. I would think that she would want that.’
Osaka during a press conference after losing her third round match against Amanda Anisimova of the US on January 21. Osaka, like Shiffrin, as struggled speaking to the media
Wearing a maroon racing helmet, bright red reflective goggles and a white racing suit with ‘USA’ on the front in blue capital letters, the two-time Olympic gold medalist eased across the finish line each time, upright instead of in a speed-preserving tuck. After the first, she paused briefly to chat with two other racers. After the second, she swiftly made her way past a gathering of about a dozen folks and was on her way.
‘It’s hard to accept what happened, but she has to work through it. And one of the better ways to do that is to keep looking forward. She has multiple events here, which is great for her,’ U.S. head women’s Alpine coach Paul Kristofic said. ‘You have to look at what’s in front of you and try to put what’s behind you to rest, as difficult as that is.’
Kristofic said Thursday’s practice ‘went well.’
Shiffrin, a 26-year-old from Colorado, never has entered a super-G at an Olympics, but she did win it at the 2019 world championships.
‘Being outside and switching events and doing something different — it’s a different impulse, for sure, in speed, and it’s a good feeling to be out here and pushing and skiing well,’ Kristofic said. ‘That’s part of the process to get through it.’
Mikaela Shiffrin, of the United States leaves the finish area after she skied out in the first run of the women’s slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics,