Yanqing, China—A DNF (Did Not Finish) can happen even to the best of them, Asa Miller and dad Kelly said on Friday, two days before the younger Miller competes in men’s giant slalom of alpine skiing at the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.
“It happens to all the top skiers, even to the best,” said the 21-year-old Miller, who didn’t DNF in his Games debut in Pyeongchang four years ago and finished 70th among 120 participants.
“Look at any race and some of the best do not finish.”
Mikaela Shiffrin, the two-time Olympic champion and one of the most recognizable in the games, had consecutive DNFs in women’s giant slalom and slalom earlier this week.
The American icon crashed in all her runs, spending no more than 20 seconds on the Ice River, the ski course that reared its brutal side to the gold medal favorite.
Kelly Miller, an active ski patroller at Mount Hood in Oregon for 27 years, said the key to avoiding a crash is to train and adapt to the course days before any race.
“Every race course, how it’s set and the snow conditions change. You try to understand all the variables and plan how to ski it,” Kelly Miller said. “But sometimes you are off and can’t recover from a mistake. I’m sure she [Shiffrin] will come back.”
Shiffrin did come back in the Super-G but her time didn’t push her to a medal finish.
Also a three-time World Cup champion, four-time slalom world champion and winner of 47 World Cup slalom races, Shiffrin DNFed in a slalom race only three times in the last eight years.
“Really what is more surprising is that DNFs are so few,” Kelly Miller said. “In the 229 career Olympic, World Cup and world championship races that Shiffrin has entered, she skied out of a race course just 14 times and has done so only three times in the last four years.”
Shiffrin’s previous DNF in slalom before Beijing happened a month ago in a World Cup event in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
Asa Miller’s American coach Will Gregorak, who arrived here Thursday, said a fraction of a mistake in a second could instantly drive anybody off the course.
“That’s what happened to Shiffrin,” said Gregorak, who raced in the World Cup 23 times for the US team. “The sports skiing is one of the sports where people only pay attention when the Olympics comes around. But the nature of the sport of skiing to go on Shiffrin’s level, it is miraculous that she finished the races, as she does attacking, as hard as she does.”
“The simple reality of skiing is that a pretty minor mistake or even not a necessary mistake, just the lack of anticipation of a piece of snow can take you out of the race extremely, quickly, and that’s extremely common among at any given race so it’s always unfortunate that it happened to Shiffrin in the Olympics,” he said.
Gregorak said that the most difficult part of the hill is right at the start gate itself.
“If a skier doesn’t feel the steep course due to unfamiliarity with snow conditions and is not mentally focused, he will be in trouble really fast,” he said.