Star skier Mikaela Shiffrin is moving forward with a little help from an unexpected source, she told ESPN in an interview on her journey before and after the Beijing Olympics.
Shiffrin had a series of uncharacteristic performances at the 2022 Winter Games. After winning gold medals at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, she failed to finish three of her races in Beijing and left without a medal.
As she sat on the course following her second DNF, Shiffrin told ESPN she was “trying to figure out how I could disappear from the mountain and melt under the fence.”
Still, Shiffrin got up and faced the music — specifically, the “Frozen II” soundtrack. In her recent interview with ESPN, she said that she also leaned on a song from the animated movie to help her move forward.
“There’s a scene in ‘Frozen II’ where Anna sings, ‘Just do the next right thing,'” Shiffrin said. “That was the thought. Not, ‘What is the next day going to bring?’ Or ‘What is the next race going to bring?’ Just, ‘What’s the next step I have to take?'”
She refused to think about altering her schedule, despite having seen Simone Biles withdraw from the Tokyo Olympics with the twisties just months prior. Despite experiencing a similar disconnect with her body, Shiffrin didn’t treat the situation the same – nor did she show herself similar compassion.
“Maybe that was stubborn or naive,” Shiffrin said. “I just kept thinking of the next race as another opportunity.
“I wouldn’t say I was very kind to myself. But when you feel you disappointed a nation of people and there are just enough people corroborating that and saying, ‘Yeah, you are a total failure,’ and all the worst stuff I’m thinking about myself, it’s not a moment when you know how to be kind to yourself.”
Her coach, Mike Day, said he believes that Shiffrin and Biles were experiencing similar events.
“Their sports are different, and they managed the situations differently,” he said. “But ultimately, did we learn enough from Simone Biles to avoid the outcome that Mikaela had at the Winter Games? Clearly not.”
She can’t explain what happened in Beijing. But while Shiffrin left the Olympics without a medal, she rebounded in the World Cup circuit, winning her first downhill event in two years and capturing her fourth overall World Cup skiing title.
“Winning a downhill and securing her fourth overall title by winning in a discipline she barely skis is just so incredible,” her boyfriend and fellow ski racer Aleksander Aamodt Kilde said. “It shows she is the best skier in the world, on the women’s and men’s side.”
In focusing in on the little moments, rather than the wins and the losses, Shiffrin recognizes that there’s a lot to focus on from this past season.
“There have been great moments and tough, challenging moments where I felt really low,” she said. “What happened in Beijing, it’s not something you come to terms with or accept or process. But you move forward. You literally just put one foot in front of the other.”