Mikaela Shiffrin’s Winter Olympics did not get off to the start she would have hoped.
The 26-year-old American star and defending giant slalom gold medalist crashed out on the upper portion of her first run attempt Monday morning, eliminating her from medal contention.
Shiffrin, testing the limits of the slick “Ice River” technical course at the Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center, lost her edge on a left-hand turn early in the run and went down, missing several gates. She skied out for just the third time in the last four years in international competition, including for the first time in 30 GS races. She appeared to avoid injury and skied down the remainder of the course unassisted.
"I was attacking and just a small mistiming of when I set my edges and just slipped out," Shiffrin said "It's amazing surface, it's just amazing conditions but you don't have any room for some small errors or anything like that.
"I mean, it's hard not to dwell – especially for me – I'm always dwelling on these heartbreaking days but I just can't afford to spend or waste energy on something that's now in the past... I'm sorry that that was the performance I did today, but that also happens. I won't hide the disappointment, but I'm also not going to dwell on that because that's not going to help at all."
The giant slalom was a crucial cog in Shiffrin's plans for a historic multi-event performance in Beijing. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has stated a desire to compete in all five individual women's events with hopes of adding to her mounting legacy as one of Alpine skiing's greatest-ever champions. Her next opportunity for a medal comes Wednesday morning in Beijing (Tuesday evening in the U.S.) with the women's slalom event. Shiffrin is regarded as the best slalom skier of all time, owning more world cup victories than any slalom skier ever. She won gold in the event at the Sochi 2014 Olympics as an 18-year-old.
Earlier in the week, Shiffrin expressed concern about the Yanqing venue due to its steep grade, swirling winds and 100% manmade snow. "There's going to be a huge element of just crossing your fingers in these Games," Shiffrin said. "It's some of the steepest terrain I've ever experienced in my life."
Sara Hector of Sweden paced the field after the first run with a time of 57.56. American Nina O'Brien positioned herself for a possible run at a medal in sixth place, 1.25 behind Hector's lead. Out of 82 skiers to start the race, 20 failed to successfully navigate the course.