Mikaela Shiffrin came to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics after a low period following the death of her father made her doubt she would ever compete again.
At 26, Shiffrin has two Olympic gold medals and one silver, making her one of the most decorated U.S. alpine skiers in history. She’s been described as a once-in-a-generation skier, a favorite to win just about any race she enters.
In her first race at the Beijing Olympics, defending her 2018 gold medal in the giant slalom, Shiffrin missed a gate and was disqualified. But she has four more races to go.
Shiffrin questioned whether she would ever ski again after the death of her father at 65 in an accident in Colorado in 2019.
“It’s definitely different without him here,” she told NBC Sports. “It’s the place where I feel most connected to him. It’s kind of hard to feel that anywhere else.”
What happened to Mikaela Shiffrin’s father
From the start of her career, Shiffrin’s father, Jeff Shiffrin, played the role of photographer. In Sochi and PyeongChang, Jeff Shiffrin was there, camera in hand, as Mikaela took home three Olympic medals.
Shiffrin, an anesthesiologist with Vail Health and Anesthesia Partners of Colorado, captured his daughter on film in a way only a proud father can.
“A lot of the photographers get like similar shots because they’re all standing in the same area. But he knew when to take the picture when everyone else put their camera down,” she said. “He’d keep his up.”
Mikaela was in the middle of a Sports Illustrated photoshoot when sudden tragedy hit the family.
“I feel like I’m on top of the world. The photos look amazing. I look like I’m on top of the world,” she said. “As all that was happening for me, my dad was being rushed to the hospital.”
Jeff Shiffrin had suffered a severe head injury in an accident at the family’s Colorado home. He died on Feb. 2, 2020, at age 65.
Mikaela Shiffrin considers quitting
Mikaela’s mother, Eileen, said her daughter couldn’t get out of bed. She seriously considered walking away from ski racing forever.
“She was so devastated. She couldn’t stop crying,” Eileen Shiffrin said.
It was Mikaela’s brother, Taylor, who stepped in to encourage her
“Taylor came into the room with the two of us and he just he just grabbed Mikaela and he was hugging both of us, really, and he said to Mikaela, ‘You cannot give up,'” Eileen said.
Taylor Shiffrin describes it as a moment of selfishness: “You can’t quit on us.”
“It’s what dad would want. It’s how Dad would handle it. A phrase I had heard was ‘when you’re going through hell keep going. Don’t stop,'” he said.
Mikaela Shiffrin returns to skiing
Mikaela Shiffrin returned to competition after a lengthy absence.
She set the record for the most World Cup wins in a single discipline in history with her 47th career win in the slalom under the lights in Schladming, Austria, earlier this year
She posted an emotional tribute: “Dad, I hope you had a good view.”
Shiffrin now has 73 World Cup wins across all events, which ranks third all time and second among women behind only the 82 by retired legend Lindsey Vonn.
This story first appeared on TODAY.com. More from TODAY: