October 6, 2022

Defending Olympic champ Mikaela Shiffrin out of giant slalom

Shiffrin still has a few opportunities for to medal during these games. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty) (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

BEIJING — Defending Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin missed a gate early in the first run of the giant slalom at the Beijing Games on Monday and was disqualified from the event.

Coming around a left-turn gate, she lost control, slid and fell on her side.

The 26-year-old Shiffrin still could have a handful of chances over the next two weeks to become the first Alpine ski racer from the United States to win three Olympic golds across a career.

She has said she hopes to enter all five individual events at Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center.

Her next race is the slalom on Wednesday. Shiffrin won that at age 18 at the 2014 Sochi Games, part of a remarkable career that includes a total of three Olympic medals — there was a silver in the combined at Pyeongchang in 2018, in addition to her triumph in the giant slalom there — three World Cup overall titles and a half-dozen world championship golds.

She arrived in China as one of the most-watched athletes in any sport at the Winter Olympics, a superstar who has dominated ski racing for long stretches in recent years.

Shiffrin has spoken openly about the pressure created by the weight of expectations — her own, of course, and those of fans, but also coaches, friends and family. She also is upfront about the burden of dealing with the accidental death of her father, Jeff, two years ago.

Her debut in Beijing was over quickly. In the first run of the two-leg giant slalom, the first women’s Alpine race on the schedule, Shiffrin slipped and tried to right herself, but it was too late.

Eventually, she got up and stopped on the side of the hill at the course known as The Ice River, stuck her poles in the snow and put her hands on her hips.

Shiffrin was the seventh racer out of the starting gate — and not the first to encounter trouble.

Italy’s Marta Bassino, who won the World Cup giant slalom title last season and went two spots earlier than Shiffrin on Monday, fell on her left hip, slid down and spun around.

Only skiers who complete the first run get a chance to go in the second run, scheduled for later Monday.