Alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin said she would skip upcoming scheduled media appearances after she grabbed headlines following her second straight disqualification at the 2022 Olympics.
On Thursday, Shiffrin issued a statement through a US Olympic spokesperson, stating: “Mikaela will not be doing any media for the foreseeable future. Thank you for respecting her space right now.”
Shiffrin was favored to medal in all of her various downhill events. NBC clearly banked on her female star-power, as well, considering how much time they devoted to her disappointing finishes in slalom and giant slalom. The network panned in on the six-time World Champion Wednesday with tears in her eyes, prompting some on social media to liken the attention to bullying.
To her credit, Shiffrin gave reporters around 45 minutes after her second disqualification. NBC aired a portion of that interview later, showing footage of her looking somber while sitting in the snow alongside her skis. In the interview, Shiffrin barely held back tears.
She said about her performance: “It makes me second-guess the last 15 years … Just processing a lot for sure, and I feel really bad.”
What happened to Shiffrin in the Olympics?
In the slalom, Shiffrin skidded out of control and missed a gate just seconds into the event. In the giant slalom, she crashed 11 seconds into the opening run on Monday. Then most recently in the Super G race, she finished ninth. Afterwards, she agreed to a small interview with NBC again.
“I was trying to ski smooth and just really good, solid turns and trying to be in my tuck as much as possible,” the skier said. “I think I had a really good plan, and the course ran similar to how I thought.
Much of the social media backlash came as a result of the broadcasters’ utter shock at what they had just seen. At just 26-years-old and squarely in the prime of her career, Shiffrin was a massive favorite in the two slalom races.
For example, after the race, Ted Ligety, a two-time gold medalist himself, said, “That will play in slow motion for ages to come in her mind.” He also called Shiffrin’s early exit “a rookie mistake.”
NBC defends its decision to air Shiffrin’s vulnerable moments
NBC executive producer Molly Solomon defended the broadcast decision, citing journalistic integrity to cover the event and the stories that unfold quickly.
“We have an obligation in that moment, as the broadcaster of the Olympic games, to cover the moment,” Solomon said. “There’s no script when there’s a wipeout on the slopes or a fall in figure skating. We’re watching real people with real emotions in real time and we did everything we were supposed to do.”
Solomon even used a Super Bowl reference to defend her network, which was timely given that NBC, itself, will air the big game this Sunday.
“I’ve thought a lot about this, and if Joe Burrow or Matthew Stafford sit on the sidelines 22 minutes after the Super Bowl on Sunday, you can bet the cameras are going to stay on them,” Solomon said.
“Here we are in 2022 and we have a double standard in coverage of women’s sports. We should analyze women’s sports through the same lens as men’s. The most famous skier in the world did not finish her two best events. So we are going to show her sitting on the hill and analyze what went wrong. You bet we are.”