Mikaela Shiffrin's 2022 Olympic Games came to an anticlimactic end on Sunday in the bronze-medal race of the wind-delayed mixed team parallel skiing event.
Shiffrin had been hoping to salvage her unexpected time in Beijing with one final shot at a medal as part of the American team, which also included Paula Moltzan, River Radamus and Tommy Ford, in the last Alpine event. Instead, the squad lost to Norway in a tiebreak.
The U.S. team embraced at the bottom of the mountain after discovering they had placed fourth and out of the medals. Still, Shiffrin remained positive after the race, and she praised her teammates in a joint interview.
"I am not disappointed," Shiffrin said. "I have had a lot of disappointing moments at these Games; today is not one of them. Today is my favorite memory. This was the best possible way that I could imagine ending the Games, skiing with such strong teammates."
Already one of the most decorated Alpine skiers in history and the owner of three previous Olympic medals, the 26-year-old was expected to win multiple medals at the Beijing Games and had expressed her hope to compete in all five individual disciplines. While she was able to participate in every event, not much else went to plan. Shiffrin recorded uncharacteristic "did not finish" results in the giant slalom, slalom and Alpine combined races, and she finished ninth in the super-G and 18th in the downhill. Had she won one medal, she would have tied Julia Mancuso for the most medals by an American woman in Alpine skiing.
Shiffrin has been candid about her struggles throughout these Games and expressed her confusion about her challenging stretch.
"I don't know, sometimes you just have to take it, I guess," Shiffrin told NBC on Thursday after crashing out of the slalom portion of the combined event. "Try to fix it the next time. I don't know what I'm supposed to fix. That's the frustrating thing. I don't think there's something to fix. It just went really, really wrong."
The team event, which pits a skier from each country in a head-to-head slalom race, was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday but was delayed multiple times due to the dangerous weather conditions before eventually being rescheduled to Sunday. Shiffrin, as well as several other competitors in the event, changed her travel plans in order to stay and participate.
Shiffrin was the first to compete for the American team in its opening-round race against Slovakia, and she won her race. It was her first completed slalom run in Beijing. She lost in her races against Italy in the quarterfinals, against Germany in the semifinals and against Norway, but she had clean runs and completed all three. She later emphasized how proud she was of her teammates for their strong performances throughout the day.
"There is so much about this event that just hangs in the balance, and today with wind, as well, there's just too much that you have to hope for good karma or good luck or whatever," Shiffrin said. "You just hope to do the very best you can and control the things you can, and these guys did very top level of skiing, and we were that close to getting a medal today; and that is a testament to the work everybody has done this entire time, years leading up to these Games. It's not just today."
By competing on Sunday, Shiffrin became just the second woman in history to compete in all six Alpine events in the Olympics, joining her rival Petra Vlhova, who did so in 2018, the first year of the team event.
Austria ultimately won the gold medal, and Germany earned the silver. Switzerland, the defending gold medalist, was eliminated in the quarterfinals.