Mikaela Shiffrin elated, thoughtful following historic super-G win
EAGLE-VAIL — When local ski racer Mikaela Shiffrin was growing up, she dreamed of winning every discipline in ski racing. After accomplishing that goal with a super-G win on Sunday, Shiffrin posted her thoughts on Monday, Dec. 3.
“I definitely didn’t expect for it to happen this quickly,” she wrote. “For that to happen at this point in my career, I’m really over the moon about it.”
The race itself was a near perfect effort which put Shiffrin almost 8-tenths of a second ahead of the second place finisher. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old had a moment of doubt in the finish area.
“It took me a minute to actually find the scoreboard, when I saw it … I thought it said 8-tenths behind,” Shiffrin said in a recorded statement sent to reporters. “And I was thinking ‘Oh shoot somebody else must have really crushed it.’”
The feeling only lasted a moment.
“Then I saw that I was actually 8-tenths ahead … and I was thinking through my run I was like ‘Well, I really went for it. I really, really took the aggressive line and just barely pulled it off, and felt really good about it,’” she said.
The aggressive line is what it takes to win in speed races such as super-G, a mix of downhill and giant slalom with a course set that skiers are permitted to see, but not ski, prior to the one run they are allowed. While Shiffrin’s win was expertly carried out, she herself admits she’s far from a super-G or downhill expert at this point in her career.
“There are a lot of things I still need to learn about speed,” she wrote on Monday.
One takeaway from the weekend, in her words, is “winging it” isn’t always such a bad approach if you’ve put in the training and you’re confident in your ability.
“I really had absolutely no expectations,” Shiffrin said. ”When I got into the gate I was like ‘You know, I kind of feel like I’m winging it, but I know that my skiing is good.’”
Over the summer, Shiffrin had focused on improving her super-G skiing.
“I didn’t necessarily get a ton of super-G training, but I focused more on super-G than downhill when we were training speed,” she said. “I was working on my position, working on equipment, trying to find a really good setup, and I think it paid off a lot, because I had the confidence to know that if I put myself in a good postilion on my skis toady then I’d be able to make a lot of speed.”
SUPER-G FREE SKIING
Another lesson learned from the weekend is a little free time on the right skis can go a long way.
“We were out there 30 minutes before anyone else, skiing when it was dark, because I was just trying to take some free runs on my super-G skis and remember the feeling,” Shiffrin said. “My equipment felt perfect, it felt amazing.”
Shiffrin said the surface of the snow also felt great.
“I could really push on it,” she said. “I could really drive into the ski.”
In a super-G race, skiers get to inspect the course ahead of time, but they don’t actually get to ski it. Shiffrin said she felt comfortable with the inspection and set a plan on how to ski the track.
When the race began, “I felt like right from the get go, I was on time executing my plan and able to really move with the hill and with the snow and with my skis,” she said.
The result, .77 ahead of the next closest competitor, would be considered a landslide victory in a race that often comes down to hundredths of a second.
“It was a really cool feeling,” Shiffrin said. “Something that I have never felt really in a super-G race.”
Shiffrin acknowledges, however, that if you make it to enough World Cup races, once in a while you get one where everything goes right.
“You could say today was my day,” she said on Sunday. “But I don’t expect that to be the way that it goes every single time. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to get my speed skiing and my super-G skiing to a point where it doesn’t need to be perfect, it doesn’t need to be my day, to have a really fast run.”
Shiffrin said the win doesn’t change her expectations for the upcoming speed races in St. Moritz, Switzerland, on Dec. 8-9.
“The only thing that I know is that now I know the tactic and the mentality that I have to have in order to be a contender for podiums in super-G,” she said.
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Aspen is set to add to its Olympic heritage next month as three local athletes head to the Beijing Games. Halfpipe skiers Alex Ferreira and Hanna Faulhaber, as well as cross-country skier Hailey Swirbul, will head over soon, but before that a send-off party is set for Wednesday.