Shiffrin still unsure if she will compete in five events

Ed Stoner
Mikaela Shiffrin, left, with U.S. Team press officer Megan Harrod, speaks to the media Saturday, Feb. 10, at the Main Press Center in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as she prepares to compete in the Winter Olympics.
Ed Stoner | |

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — Mikaela Shiffrin arrived in Pyeongchang nine days ago — a few days early to get adjusted to South Korea — and has been on a pretty regular routine since then. She’s had six or seven training sessions on the hill, dry-land workouts, physical therapy, meals and sleep.

“I’m fairly boring,” she said. “You guys will find that out throughout these games.”

For a supposedly boring person, Shiffrin is a magnet for attention at these Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. Dozens of reporters and photographers from around the globe showed up for a press conference with the Eagle-Vail ski racer Saturday morning at the Main Press Center in Pyeongchang.

Shiffrin returns for her second Olympics, after winning slalom gold in Sochi four years ago. But she enters these Games with a heavier schedule and loftier expectations — both from herself and others.

She’s now the reigning World Cup overall champion, and has expanded her repertoire to speed events, with a win this season in downhill.

She famously stated in Sochi that she wanted to win five golds in Pyeongchang, but Saturday she said she’s not sure if she will compete in all five events — slalom, giant slalom, super-G, downhill and alpine combined.

“I would like to compete in everything,” she said. “I’m not sure if I’m actually going to have that energy to do that. So right now I’m focusing on GS and slalom and after that I’ll be switching the focus to speed.”

She added that “right now we’re looking at any possibility.”

Shiffrin begins her Olympic competition on Monday, with the giant slalom, and then competes in her strongest event, the slalom, on Wednesday.

She’ll be the favorite or among the favorites for gold in three races — the slalom, giant slalom and combined, which is Feb. 23.

After a run of eight wins in nine races in December and January, Shiffrin has struggled in the last few races on the World Cup tour. She has failed to finish three of her last four races, and also had a seventh-place finish in the giant slalom.

Shiffrin said she has experienced some fatigue as the season has worn on, which has contributed to her lackluster results over the last few races. As she expands her repertoire from technical events to speed events, part of the fatigue is the mental and physical strain of learning the speed disciplines.

“By the super-G day in Cortina (Jan. 21) I was exhausted,” she said. “And that was where that mental fatigue came in. I think that came from underestimating how much energy it takes to do speed like that and to learn new tracks.”

She said she was “emotional and crying and frustrated” at the Lenzerheide slalom in Switzerland Jan. 28. That was a sign that she needed to take a step back, get more rest and get back to training. And that’s what she’s done.

“I’m feeling much better much more like myself,” she said.

Shiffrin will be one of the biggest faces of these games. But as for any discussion that Shiffrin is the Michael Phelps of the Winter Games, Shiffrin said that’s crazy talk.

“He has, what, 23 medals?” she said. “I know it’s a comparison between sports (but) I don’t think there’s a sport in the Winter Olympics where you can even win 23 medals across three or four Olympics. I could never imagine myself even in the same sentence as Michael Phelps. It’s extremely flattering, but it’s apples and oranges.”

Ed Stoner is the director of content for Swift Communications. He is covering the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, focusing on athletes from Swift’s communities in Colorado, Utah, California and Nevada.