Spencer O'Brien needed 20 minutes to compose herself after the Olympic women's slopestyle final Sunday. And even then, she could barely get the words out.
The heavy weight of expectations on the Canadian snowboarder proved to be too much.
O'Brien was a podium favourite entering the final and hoped to build on the Canadian team's momentum after Mark McMorris won bronze a day earlier in the men's event. But the world champion botched landings halfway down the course in each run and finished last in the 12-woman field.
"Sorry I'm just really disappointed right now," she told reporters as tears rolled down her cheeks. "I had a really hard year coming back from some injuries. I was really happy to be riding the way I was here. I was just really excited to be a part of Team Canada. Just after watching Mark yesterday, I was really inspired to just try really hard to bring home a medal.
"I went for my hardest run and it didn't work out today. So I'm really disappointed and really sad that I let Canada down."
American Jamie Anderson won gold with a score of 95.25. Enni Rukajarvi of Finland took silver with 92.50 and Britain's Jenny Jones earned bronze with 87.25.
The Olympic experience can be a shining moment for some and a crushing blow for others. O'Brien's comments echoed the apologies that came from other Canadian medal contenders who struggled during their big moments in the spotlight.
Triathlete Paula Findlay finished last at the 2012 London Olympics and also felt the need to apolgize to her country. Skeleton racer Mellisa Hollingsworth said she felt like she let Canadians down after her fifth-place result at the 2010 Vancouver Games.
The emotion can be overwhelming right after a race or competition. In many cases, athletes haven't fully absorbed what happened in the field of play or why things may have gone wrong.
"These guys are amazingly strong," head coach Leo Addington said. "They take strength out of wins and they take strength out of losses. She'll refocus and remember why she snowboards — because it's fun, and she'll get back on the course for sure."
O'Brien appeared to lose her balance and leaned back on the snow midway through her first run before slipping out again on her second run. She cut both runs short and took a slow ride down the side of the course instead of showing the high-flying spins and tricks she had planned.
In slopestyle, racers navigate an intimidating mix of rails, ledges and jumps. The Rosa Khutor Extreme Park course is a challenging one and there is little room for error.
"It's tough," said Addington. "One little bobble will take you out, especially at this level when the points are high and the landed runs are perfect. You just can't make a mistake."
O'Brien, 26, did well on the rail section but came up short on her backside 720 jumps — where she spins around two times in the air — and wasn't able to do the frontside 720 jump she had planned.
She had just 30 points in her first run and finished with a score of 35 from her second run. O'Brien had entered the Games on a high after a bronze-medal performance last month at the X Games.
"Spencer's head game is so strong and so many times we've seen her come back from problems in the first run and nail it in the second and usually she can do that," Addington said.
O'Brien left the interview area after a brief chat with the media and then came back a short time later in better spirits. She explained that she had a great practice and really believed that she could deliver a strong run.
"I felt great actually," she said. "That's why it was kind of like a sledgehammer a little bit."
The result capped a mixed weekend for the Canadian slopestyle riders.
McMorris won the lone medal on the deep men's side, which included X Games champ Max Parrot and Sebastien Toutant. There was talk of a potential podium sweep before the event but Parrot settled for a fifth-place finish and Toutant was well back in ninth.
Jenna Blasman of Kitchener, Ont., was 11th in the women's semifinal and didn't make the final.
O'Brien, from Courtenay, B.C., tried to look at the positives after the race. She was happy for the medallists and pleased that she could take part in slopestyle's Olympic debut.
"You know right now I'm so disappointed," she said. "But I know looking back this whole experience has been so incredible. It's going to be one of the biggest days of my life, being part of making history for snowboarding."