Mikaela Shiffrin, the popular American alpine skier, almost quit the sport following her father’s death in February 2020. Leaving empty-handed after her fourth Olympic event in Beijing, the six-time world champion remained optimistic, but can’t deny that her father’s death weighs heavy on the competition.
“It’s definitely different without him here,” Mikaela Shiffrin told NBC Sports. “It’s the place where I feel most connected to him. It’s kind of hard to feel that anywhere else.”
Jeff Shiffrin, an anesthesiologist and photographer, tragically passed away at the age of 65 due to an accidental head injury suffered at the family’s Colorado home.
At Shiffrin’s two previous Olympic Winter Games, the 2014 Olympics in Sochi and the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, her father was cheering her on, camera in hand. To Shiffrin, the connection she had to her father through skiing was everything, and she almost gave it up after his tragic accident.
“I wondered if it was really worth it,” she told TODAY‘s Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb back in October. “There was a really long time that I didn’t really feel like it was worth it to care about anything, so it seemed like I’m not going to go ski race again because the most fundamental thing of an athlete is that you have to care about your sport and you have to care about doing well at your sport, and I just didn’t.”
Returning to competition after a long absence, Mikaela Shiffrin readied herself for a third Olympics, chasing the goal of becoming the most decorated female alpine skier of all time.
The 26-year-old already accomplished becoming the greatest female skier in the United States. and is just one medal away from tying the Olympic record for female skiers.
Winning the World Cup again in 2022 after returning to the sport, she posted an emotional tribute on Instagram, writing “Dad, I hope you had a good view.”
“It was a little bit of a relief to win a race again,” Mikaela Shiffrin told NBC Sports. “I definitely had a lot of doubt about whether that was ever going to happen again, but there was a pretty big part of me that was kinda hoping I wouldn’t. Like it’s great to win but it’s kind of a bummer. I don’t know how to handle this at all.”
Entering Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, however, Shiffrin has been struggling, as she deals with the intense pressure to compete at the highest level.
On Tuesday, she placed 18th in the downhill skiing event, where she was expected to be a heavy contender. The American alpine skier also wiped out in both the slalom and giant slalom event, where she earned two gold medals in year’s prior. Mikaela Shiffrin also placed ninth in the Super-G, which was her first attempt at the Super-G in an Olympic event.
Despite the disappointment, the 26-year-old announced plans to compete on Thursday, and may even join the team event, which she did not plan on doing as she came to Beijing this year. Searching for that gold medal record among some emotional losses, Shiffrin remained optimistic even going into the downhill event.
“Racing DH tomorrow!” Mikaela Shiffrin tweeted on Monday before placing 18th in the event. “The track is spectacular and I have ‘overthought’ the crap out of it over the last couple days so it’s prob time to just point ‘em straight and get low.”
After she wiped out in the slalom, knocking her out of contention for the medal, she sat on the side of the mountain for over 20 minutes with her head in her hands.
“Could blame it on a lot of things…and we’ll analyze it till the cows come home, but not today,” Shiffrin said on Instagram following the crash.
Tweeting out three hearts in support of Mikaela Shiffrin, Olympic gymnast Simon Biles, who also dealt with the pressures of winning gold on the world stage, offered her understanding. Shiffrin responded with heart emojis.
“What I have been doing with my skiing… I would push myself a little bit too hard” Shiffrin told The New York Times. “I had the intention to do my best skiing and my quickest turns… and things happen so fast that there was really not space to slip up, even a little bit.”