After a whirlwind two weeks, the Winter Games are coming to an end. Hundreds of Team USA athletes are making their final appearance at the PyeongChang Games, but is gold-medalist skier Mikaela Shiffrin at the 2018 Olympic closing ceremony? The two-time Olympian waved goodbye to South Korea on Saturday in a sweet Instagram post.
It seems as though Shiffrin did not appear with her teammates at the opening ceremony on February 9, but she very well could have been busy preparing for the three events she competed in: the Alpine downhill-slalom combined, slalom, and giant slalom. The 22-year-old athlete might have also just wanted some rest before the challenging events. In addition to being an Olympic competitor, Shiffrin has won multiple World Cup titles, and she likely wanted to defend her reputation as one of the sport's most talented athletes.
There's also a chance that she was at the opening ceremony and we didn't see her because she was off social media. Unlike other competitors who posted pictures of themselves on Twitter or Instagram, Shiffrin told CNBC's Squawk Box morning-show program on Friday, "I actually just stepped away from my social media for the entire time I was competing." She added, "Every word you say, every tweet you make is put under the microscope. You can't just like blow off a tweet and expect it to be fine. People are actually looking at that and reading into it." However, she started posting again shortly after her last event, and uploaded plenty of pictures to make up for her absence.
One of the photos she shared to Instagram was a lengthy farewell message posted about 10 hours before the Closing Ceremony. It's possible Shiffrin was at the Closing Ceremony and just not spotted on camera. But, it's also possible that her goodbye post was a goodbye to the country as a whole and that she's now back in America.
Though Shiffrin won both a gold medal for the giant slalom and the silver for the Alpine downhill-slalom combined, she did not perform as well as she had hoped. According to the Denver Post, Shiffrin had a chance to make history as the first American woman to win three medals in alpine racing at one Olympics. Unfortunately, she fell just short of getting the bronze in the slalom, where she finished in fourth place. Her placement was particularly disappointing because of Shiffrin's history in the event. She became the youngest slalom champion in Olympic skiing history when she won the gold in 2014 Sochi Games, and she has finished first in the event in the past three consecutive World Championships (2013, 2015, 2017).
The race was incredibly close, though. According to the Washington Post she finished just 0.40 seconds behind first-place finisher Sweden's Frida Hansdotter and just 0.08 seconds behind the third-place racer Katharina Gallhuber of Austria.
Shiffrin wrote about her experience on Instagram, explaining the the circumstances were less than ideal — the race was rescheduled due to dangerously strong wind and Shiffrin competed in the slalom the day after her emotional giant slalom first-place finish. She wrote, "I’ve gone over it a thousand times in my head, and I don’t think I could have done it differently even if I got a second chance." She added:
But after 5 days of schedule changes and waiting to race, and without the day between those races to reset and recharge, I wasn’t able to manage it. And you know what? I wouldn’t change that for the world. It’s the Olympics, and for me that’s about showing heart and passion as much as it is about medals.
Her second place finish on the combined was also a pivotal moment in her career. She finished ahead of one of America's best women skiers Lindsey Vonn, the gold medalist for downhill at the 2010 Vancouver Games, who had returned to the olympics after having to miss 2014 because of an injury.
Another exciting factor in Shiffrin's two podium finishes? According to the New York Times, these medals combined with her gold from the 2014 olympics, make her one of only four American Alpine racers to win three or more medals at the Olympics. And, since she's only 22, she hopefully has at least one or two more Winter Games to seal her spot in history.