Iga Swiatek reached out to alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin on Friday after the American's disappointing results at the ongoing Beijing Winter Olympics. The Pole took the opportunity to remind Shiffrin that she is a source of inspiration for many people around the world, and beseeched her not to lose heart after a few underwhelming performances.
Having won two medals (one gold and one silver) at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, the American was one of the clear favorites in Beijing. But things did not go according to plan for the 26-year-old, as she finished five of the six events in the sport without a medal.
Mikaela Shiffrin finished the Downhill race in 18th place and the Super-G race, where she won the bronze medal at the 2021 World Championships, in ninth position. At the Slalom (2021 World Championships bronze medalist), Super Slalom (defending champion) and Combined events (runner-up in PyeongChang), Shiffrin wiped out with a DNF (did-not-finish) result.
The American sounded heartbroken at the end of the Combined race on Thursday, saying she felt "like a joke" after her below-par results.
Speaking in a video posted by Eurosport, Swiatek implored Shiffrin not to continue along that line of thought. Swiatek revealed that she herself has sought inspiration from Mikaela Shiffrin in the past, not just for her performances but also because she is a wonderful person.
"I know these must be tough moments for you, but really you should remember how much of a huge inspiration you are for all of us, not only as an athlete but as a person," Swiatek said. "Basically, these are not just empty words, because you know that and I know that you also inspired me."
Swiatek and Shiffrin have never met each other in person, despite being close friends over the internet. The WTA World No. 9 said she hoped that would change once the pandemic ends, and in the meantime, she encouraged the two-time Olympic gold medalist to "keep going" without getting disheartened.
"I'm pretty grateful to have an opportunity to chat with you and to talk to you, and to maybe meet you some day when COVID is going to be gone," Swiatek said. "So I really hope you're going to keep going and keep being as strong as you are because you're doing great."
Mikaela Shiffrin is slated to participate in the mixed team event on Saturday (February 19), after which she will become only the second woman in history to have raced in all six Alpine Skiing events at the Winter Olympics.
"It's not always easy, but it is also not the end of the world to fail" - Mikaela Shiffrin
After looking demoralized on Thursday, Mikaela Shiffrin bounced back with a remarkable display of determination. The 26-year-old took to social media the same day to push back against criticism she received from online trolls following her loss.
Shiffrin declared that it was "not the end of the world" just because she failed, and that she was ready to fail even more in the future if it meant doing something she really liked. The American added that she had already shifted her focus to the final race on Saturday.
"Get up because you can, because you like what you do when it is not infested with people who have so much apparent hate for you. Just get up. It is not always easy but it is also not the end of the world to fail. Fail twice. Fail 5 times. At the Olympics."
"Why do I keep coming back? Gosh knows it hurts more than it feels good lately. I come back because those first 9 turns today were spectacular, really heaven. That's where I am meant to be, and I am stubborn as s**t. So let's go for the final Alpine race of this Olympics on Saturday," Shiffrin wrote.