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Mikaela Shiffrin doesn’t have anything to prove to anyone at the Beijing Olympics

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Rarely in sports have we seen someone so great—at the height of their heyday—fail so obviously but inexplicably. It happened again on Thursday with the greatest US skier in history, 26-year-old Michaela Shiffrin. She should have been one of the stars, if not in An American star of the 2022 Winter Olympics, but instead became an enigmatic example in the screams.

That’s just the “yapping” in skiing does not really matter. Usually you either successfully ski or you fall. There is almost no time for guesswork.

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Instinct, razor-sharp technique, and muscle memory accumulated over thousands upon thousands of runs are essential components not only of competitive skiing, but critical to preventing serious injury. In skiing, you don’t think. You just do.

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After shocking falls in giant slalom and slalom – two disciplines in which Shiffrin should have won a medal, if not gold – earlier in the Olympics, Shiffrin again lost her advantage near the 11th gate of the alpine slalom on Thursday. combined event. Another fall, another DNF.

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Another WTF.

“I don’t know what I should fix, it’s frustrating,” Shiffrin said on NBC. “I don’t think there is anything that needs to be fixed. It just went very, very wrong because I didn’t feel like I should win today, I didn’t feel the pressure.”

This is not how we are used to seeing Olympians. More often than not, the world’s greatest athletes host winning races, routines and performances on these stages. The Olympics sell stories and often deliver goods. If a gold medal or any other medal falls short of the best of the best, it is usually very short. Failure at this level at this stage from such a fantastic athlete — his rarity is second only to his shock factor. Because skiing is different from the sports that most Americans love, it’s hard to think of an equivalent to other numbers that could compare to Shiffrin’s plight. It could be like Patrick Mahomes suddenly being unable to shoot past five yards, or Dustin Johnson mysteriously losing the ability to throw a straight shot in golf. You cannot calculate such a scenario.

Prior to these Olympics, the same was true of Shiffrin, who was the Mahomes of her sport for a long time. That’s how graceful and natural skiing was for Shiffrin, who has