Mikaela Shiffrin is one of the most decorated alpine skiers of all time, but she showed she is also human in multiple ways during an emotional day at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
The 26-year-old skied out of the women’s slalom event on Tuesday, marking her second straight DNF to open the Games after also slipping during her first run of the giant slalom on Sunday. Shiffrin was among the favorites in both events and has stood atop the podium for both events in previous Olympics.
After her exit in the women’s slalom, Shiffrin skied to the side of the course and sat down as competition continued. She sat alone for a short period before a U.S. team member joined her, The three-time Olympic medalist eventually made it down after more than 20 minutes and said in a raw interview with NBC that the second slip made her “second-guess the last 15 years.”
It’s impossible to know what was going on in Shiffrin’s head as she sat on the hill, but performance psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais offered some insight on what he would tell her:
“I would say, ‘Hey, listen, everything you need is already inside you. This is part of your unique journey that not one other person on the planet has experienced. They do not walk in your shoes. They do not ski in your boots. How do you want to experience the next unfolding, unpredictable next handful of days?’”
Shiffrin received an outpouring of support Tuesday night, including a tweet from a fellow American Olympic superstar. Simone Biles withdrew from several gymnastics events at the Tokyo Games, citing mental health concerns, before making a triumphant return in the balance beam and earning bronze.
Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics
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According to Gervais, moments like Shiffrin’s and Biles’ are ones that need to be celebrated.
“When Mikaela had a moment of honesty and authenticity that she shared with everybody, it was striking,” he said. “That’s what these Games are about and that’s why we celebrate these extraordinary people who get right on the edge. And when we’re competing on a world stage, whatever that might be, it is an emotional experience.”
Shiffrin could potentially compete in three more events during these Winter Olympics: super-G, downhill and combined. With three more opportunities to race, Gervais is excited to see what Shiffrin has in store.
“She took a real look at the truth of her experience, and the greats, the extraordinaries, they reinvent themselves all the time,” he said. “They’re constantly working against their first principles, their deepest values, and keeping those consistent and steady as they progress, but reinventing all the time. That’s what she’s doing right now, and it’s electric. This is a wonderful thing to observe, and we’re all rooting for her transformation because she is so extraordinary.”