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Mikaela Shiffrin skiing out of one event at the Winter Olympics was shocking enough. Doing it twice was unfathomable.
The U.S. skiing star saw another of her best chances at a gold medal in Beijing slip away on Wednesday when a missed gate in the slalom left her disqualified from the event in which she is a four-time world champion.
Shiffrin, immediately realizing what had happened, made her way off to the side and sat down in the snow, dejected. The sight of her heartbreak may end up being one of the most recognizable images of the Beijing Games, and immediately drew a wave of sympathy on social media.
That included one tweet from a fellow skier who has seen her own share of Olympic disappointment:
— lindsey vonn (@lindseyvonn) February 9, 2022
That is absolutely devastating for Mikaela Shiffrin pic.twitter.com/9PqiGe3yxl
— D'Arcy Maine (@darcymaine_espn) February 9, 2022
Above all, the immediate reaction to Shiffrin's failed run was disbelief. Less than 48 hours later, Shiffrin had crashed out of the giant slalom, the other event in which she was expected, at least hoped, to bring home gold. The slalom was a chance to get her Olympics back on track, but ended up being an even bigger nightmare.
Shocking. Feel so bad for her.
— Ann Killion (@annkillion) February 9, 2022
I feel sick for Mikaela Shiffrin. Damn.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) February 9, 2022
— Steve Wilson (@SteveWilson_LDN) February 9, 2022
Shiffrin. I’m heartbroken.
— Maria Martin (@Ria_Martin) February 9, 2022
Utterly bizarre Olympic performances for Shiffrin. Hard to imagine https://t.co/YI0ZMMXg4m
— Dan Wolken (@DanWolken) February 9, 2022
Some were quick to note the pressure Shiffrin must have been facing, especially after the death of her father two years earlier, an event which she said nearly caused her to hang up her skis. Some also noted the parallels of her situation with Simone Biles, whose struggles amid multi-gold medal expectations was one of the stories of Tokyo half a year ago.
Biles herself later sent a message of support to Shiffrin:
I am so so sad for Mikaela Shiffrin. All I can think of is Simone Biles over the summer. The pressure on these athletes is insane
— Ashley Green (@agreenphotog) February 9, 2022
Unbelievable. America's two biggest female Olympic stars summer and winter, Biles and Shiffrin, have encountered some real adversity in Tokyo/Beijing. https://t.co/lrrlVQ1uca
— Pat Forde (@ByPatForde) February 9, 2022
It must be unimaginably hard to be a face of the Olympics, no matter how amazing you are at your sport. https://t.co/vx0TIW5dBT
— Eric Adelson (@eric_adelson) February 9, 2022
Mikaela Shiffrin. My heart goes out to her. This is someone who is competing in her 1st Olympic games without her Dad cheering her on, and these commentators dont help. Maybe dont make her feel like a failure. #Beijing2022WinterOlympics
— Kaleigh Mulligan (@kaleighmulligan) February 9, 2022
There was criticism of NBC's coverage of the heartbreak as well. Shriffin spent more than 10 minutes sitting on the snow, even as other skiers competed on the course. It was difficult to watch, and NBC lingered on the story longer than many were comfortable with.
the thing is there are soooooooooooo many other amazing athletes with amazing stories skiing RIGHT THIS SECOND show us that!!! tell us about them!!!
I know you have to cover Shiffrin, and it's a big story, and part of it, but you don't have to linger for 30 minutes!!!!!!!!!!!
— Lindsay Gibbs (@linzsports) February 9, 2022
Hey nbc maybe don’t continually air a closeup of mikaela shiffrin crying?? Just a thought
— Ardipethicus ramidus (Taylor’s Version) (@ceceliaj0) February 9, 2022
nbc talking about all the pressure being put on mikaela shiffrin pic.twitter.com/okccdgHpVo
— Sam Nowaczewski (@SamNowaczewski) February 9, 2022
And there were, of course, some who wanted the rules bent just a little to keep Shiffrin's dreams alive.
this is ridiculous just let mikaela shiffrin go again
— Matt Ellentuck (@mellentuck) February 9, 2022