Team USA alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin missed a gate second in the women’s slalom race on Wednesday morning, disqualifying her from her second straight event at the 2022 Winter Olympics. Shiffrin, who came to Beijing under the pressure of being a two-time Olympic gold medalist and favorite in her events, also came crashing down at the start of her first event (the giant slalom) on Monday, as CNN reports. It was a disappointment for the 26-year-old, but the real shame here isn’t that Shiffrin was disqualified. It’s the high-pressure, callous media coverage of a young athlete when he suffers a setback while dealing with personal struggles.
After Shiffrin’s disqualification, the camera focused on her sitting in the snow at the side of the course, looking crestfallen with her head and arms on her knees as commentators lamented what had happened. In a sometimes hard-to-watch interview, the reporter pressed Shiffrin about what was going on with her as she fought back tears and her voice cracked. Viewers of NBC’s post-race analysis heard comments such as « His nightmare in Beijing continues », « It ended before it even started », « You wait four years and your dream can be over in seconds » and « To make a mistake like that is just beyond belief », like CBS News reports.
Olympics fans already know from the heavy media coverage of Shiffrin’s personal story that she is competing in her first Olympics after her father passed away from a serious head injury in 2020. , there are the usual mounds of public pressure and performance anxiety that Olympic athletes face. The loss of her father and one of her biggest supporters made Shiffrin consider quitting the sport at some point, and she recently shared that the loss of her father weighed heavily on her as she approached. Beijing. « It’s still quite painful to think about it, » Shiffrin told the Associated press in January. Shiffrin, who has previously spoken about battling anxiety and working with a sports psychologist to help with her mental game, said she expects difficult emotions to arise. « I imagine there are going to be some really, really tough times, » Shiffrin told AP. “With this, the hard times hit when they want to. It’s not when you choose to be sad or excited.
Knowing what Shiffrin is up against has made watching the ordeal unfold on TV feel cruel or abusive to many viewers, not to mention, upsettingly familiar. It’s far from the first time we’ve seen a young female athlete struggling with personal trauma and mental health issues being treated callously by the media when she stumbles. Many Olympics fans have drawn parallels between Shiffrin’s coverage and what happened in Tokyo this summer with Simone Biles. (Biles withdrew from women’s gymnastics team competition after experiencing the dangerous « twist » due to stress, anxiety and repression of trauma from being sexually abused by the former American gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, as SELF reported.)