Mikaela Shiffrin arrived in Beijing expected to win multiple medals and cement her status as one of the most decorated American skiers in history. But things didn't go to plan during the first week of competition as she recorded two uncharacteristic "Did Not Finish" results in grand slalom and slalom, her best two races, and a ninth-place result in super-G.
She told reporters on Monday she wasn't going to think about medals anymore, and just focus on her "best execution" in her remaining two races, starting with Tuesday's downhill competition.
Despite the change of mentality, the result was more of the same for the 26-year-old American. Competing 12th in a field of 36, in windy conditions and frigid temperatures, Shiffrin's time of 1:34.36 was the 11th-best result at the time of her completion.
By the time the event concluded, she had fallen to 18th place and was 2.49 seconds behind gold-medalist Corinne Suter of Switzerland. Sofia Goggia and Nadia Delago, both of Italy, earned the silver and bronze.
Still, unlike some of the devastating scenes from her previous races, Shiffrin smiled and waved to the camera after completing the course and remained by the finish line as the remaining skiers competed, even posing for pictures with fellow competitors.
"Once again today, it was super fun," Shiffrin said in a postrace interview on NBC. "The speeds are definitely a little bit up and there's a bit more wind playing around so some spots you get a tailwind, some spots you get wind into your face. I haven't experienced that so much in downhill so I was a little bit like, 'What do I do with this?' But I still felt strong with my skiing. Of course my technical skiing feels pretty on point, and again it's another day of really good experience."
It was Shiffrin's Olympic debut in the event and her first time competing in a downhill race since December. But she had felt confident during her training runs over the past few days and had said she was excited to have the opportunity to race the event.
Shiffrin was one of the most visible and recognizable athletes at the start of the Games and there was much discussion from fans and those around the sport about her ability to win the third gold medal of her career, which would be the most by an American alpine skier in Olympic history. Another podium appearance of any kind would tie her with Julia Mancuso for the most medals by an American woman in the sport. She knew the expectations surrounding her and has been candid about her struggles during these Olympics.
An interview following her super-G race went viral as she discussed the outpouring of support she had received.
"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," she said. "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."
Shiffrin still will have two more opportunities to win a medal at these Games in Thursday's combined race, which includes a downhill run and a slalom run, and Saturday's mixed team event.
"It's going to be a great way to end this Olympic experience," she said about the team event.
She earned silver in the combined race in 2018 and said she was feeling upbeat heading into Thursday's competition.
"We'll see," Shiffrin said on the broadcast. "There's a couple of women who have a really good shot for strong downhill runs and then also really strong slalom runs so I don't feel that anything is guaranteed. Not at all, especially not after the last couple of weeks, but I think I have a shot so that's really nice. I'll go for it and we'll see."