One of the enduring images of an Olympics that didn't go as planned for U.S. star skier Mikaela Shiffrin came when she sat on the course in dejection for 20 minutes after skiing out of the slalom race in Beijing last week.
Shiffrin, 26, reflected on that heart-wrenching moment and her overall struggles on TODAY Friday after she finished 0-for-5 in the individual races when it came to bringing home a medal.
"When I was sitting on the side of the slalom hill after I DNF’ed in the slalom race last week, I wanted to just melt off the face of the earth," she told Hoda Kotb. "I just wanted to disappear, and I was like I’m going to have to ski down this hill into the finish and face humans that are judging — no matter what it’s a judgment — and I was so not prepared to do that, and I just need to take a minute because this feels so awful."
Shiffrin lingered in disbelief on the side of the course while her competitors completed their runs.
"A lot of people see that as I wanted more attention from the cameras, I just was being a poor sport," she said. "To be honest, I can understand how they would see it from the TV point of view, and I really apologize for that.
"But otherwise, you take what comes and you try to do the best you can and you try to do the right thing and you try to be nice, and hopefully people will return that with kindness. But most of the time there’s going to be people who are going to want to shoot you down and be a little bit mean. It’s just life."
The slalom was one of three races in which she did not finish, including Thursday's slalom portion of the combined event. Shiffrin fell after the first 10 seconds to doom any chances of winning a medal in her final individual race.
"I wanted to ski just a good run of slalom," Shiffrin told reporters after her third race. "I feel like a joke, but maybe it made someone smile."
When Hoda asked about that soundbite, Shiffrin elaborated: "At a certain point it feels like you kind of have to just laugh at it. I think there's probably people out there who are a little bit laughing at my situation and maybe not in a particularly kind way.
"I think it’s OK to say that it was a pretty epic underperformance. Didn’t get anywhere close to the results that I had the potential to get, and I certainly had ample opportunity."
Shiffrin will still compete in one more race on Saturday as part of the mixed gender Alpine team event. She will try to end on a high note after entering as a heavy medal favorite and finishing ninth in the super-G, 18th in the downhill and failing to finish in the giant slalom, slalom and the slalom portion of the combined.
"I’m still breaking records, just not necessarily the one that people want to see," she said. "It does feel like a joke. My statistics for DNFing went up like 80% in the last two weeks. It’s not funny to me because I take it seriously, but honestly it’s a little bit OK to laugh, I don’t know."
Shiffrin highlighted some of the negative comments she has faced in a post on Instagram Thursday while sending a message of resilience.
"Just get up," she wrote. "It's not always easy, but it's also not the endo of the world to fail."
She also included comments she has received like "choker" and "can't handle the pressure."
"I do read it," she told Hoda. "I see a lot of comments that are negative and I see so many comments that are positive. I actually think it’s important to get across the message how much I appreciate the support I’ve gotten."
Her message goes beyond her own individual struggles.
"There’s so many kids out there especially now with social media who get messages like that," she said. "Maybe it’s on a smaller scale, maybe it’s not on an Olympic scale, but in their world proportionally it’s the biggest thing they experience. It’s one of the big reasons why there’s so many issues with self esteem and confidence.
"I just wanted to make a point that a lot of people are experiencing that too, and you can decide to get up after it."
Shiffrin has nothing to prove considering she is one of the most decorated Alpine skiers of all time. She is a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a three-time overall World Cup champion and the holder of the most World Cup slalom victories (47) of any man or woman in history.
"I’m actually lucky to be in the position I’m in because I can look back on my career and say, 'Gosh, so far it’s been pretty spectacular,'" she said. "I’ve had more than my fair share of triumphant moments and far fewer of the disappointing moments. It all came pouring down like rain in this Olympics, but it’s going to turn around. I’m going to have success again.
"It’s just a point to say it’s going to be OK, and you can make that decision even though people can say some comments that just make you want to go run and hide in a hole forever and ever," she continued.
Following this weekend's combined event, Shiffrin will be right back on her skis again when the World Cup season resumes after the Olympics.
"I'll be back sooner than you think," she said.