After a rocky start to her Olympics campaign, Mikaela Shiffrin said she was ready to "refocus" on what she called a "fun" super-G race Friday in Beijing.
She did just that.
Shiffrin didn't win a medal, but she completed the race and, perhaps most importantly, showed herself she could do it despite the challenges of the past week.
"I think today I proved to myself that I can still trust my instincts a bit," Shiffrin said in a postrace interview on NBC. "And that's really, really huge."
Two days after slipping just five seconds into the first of her slalom race, and four days after skiing out 11 seconds into her opening run of the giant slalom, Shiffrin silenced her own doubts and made it down the mountain in the super-G in 1:14.30.
The 11th skier to take the course, Shiffrin had the eighth-best time when she crossed the finish line. While not the podium result she wanted, Shiffrin was all smiles after completing the race. She ultimately finished in ninth place. Switzerland's Lara Gut-Behrami finished with the gold medal, and Mirjam Puchner and Michelle Gisin took home the silver and bronze, respectively.
"I feel a lot more positive and a little bit of relief after skiing the super-G to know that it's not so difficult," Shiffrin said in the same broadcast interview. "Good skiing is good skiing. And I can really go for that. So I don't know, I feel a lot more optimistic right now."
The 26-year-old American, who had arrived in Beijing as one of the faces of the Games and expected to win multiple medals, couldn't hide her devastation after her early slalom exit. She sat alone on the side of the course for several minutes with her head in her hands. A three-time Olympic medalist with 73 wins on the World Cup circuit, Shiffrin was candid with reporters shortly after about her uncharacteristic performances in the first two races.
She said she was confused, and was questioning everything she knew about her skiing, and wasn't sure how to proceed.
"I'll try to reset again, and maybe try to reset better this time," she said. "But I also don't know how to do it better because I've never been in this position before and I don't know how to handle it."
She had expressed doubt about the rest of her competitive schedule but after a successful training session Thursday, she opted to participate in the super-G. She had never competed in the event during her previous two Olympics, but had won the super-G world title in 2019.
On Friday, Shiffrin made it clear she was planning on competing in the two remaining alpine events -- downhill on Tuesday and combined on Thursday. She earned the silver medal in the latter event in 2018.
With two Olympic gold medals to her name, another would give her the most ever by an American skier. Shiffrin has been well aware of this, and undeniably was hoping to make history in Beijing. But even in her frustration, she seemed to have found some perspective, thanks to the support she's received over the past week.
"Right now it really stings," Shiffrin said Friday. "And I feel disappointed from the GS and the slalom race. That disappointment is huge. And I know a lot of people feel it and I feel bad for kind of letting myself down or letting down the world...
"I would never have expected to feel in this moment -- severely underperforming in an Olympics -- I would never have felt that humans could be so kind. I never would've expected that the most surprising thing of my Olympic experience is how kind people have been in the face of my failure. I mean, it is failure. It's OK to say that. I am OK with that and I'm sorry for it, but I also was trying and I'm proud of that."