Mikaela Shiffrin talks 2019-20 ski season, cycling and doughnuts at Colorado Classic
AVON — How in the wide world of sports does Mikaela Shiffrin follow up a record-obliterating 2018-19 World Cup season with 17 wins on tour — 19, if one includes FIS Alpine World Ski Championships golds in super-G and slalom — a career-high in points (2,184) and four crystal globes, including her third straight overall title?
Maybe, you don’t.
“Last season was almost a surprise, some of those super-G wins, world championship super-G, especially,” Shiffrin said Wednesday at the Westin Riverfront Resort and Spa in Avon. “I definitely realized how much I believed in myself, stepping into some of the starting gates just knowing that I could win if I really skied my heart out, and I did. I’m going to try to keep the same mentality this year. It’s the same thing. I still don’t expect anything. I’m trying to keep low expectations and high standards. It worked. It was so much more enjoyable for me to ski and, I think, it was more enjoyable for people to watch.”
So as Shiffrin took a break from what she describes as her summer/fall on-snow training — she was in Argentina earlier this week and hits snow again next week — to promote the Colorado Classic, presented by VF Corp., she sounded a bit like she will be dialing down her expectations for 2019-20.
“In a way, I don’t know if there is anything to follow up,” Shiffrin said. “It was an incredible season. I’m really, really proud of it, me and my entire team were so proud of everything we accomplished last season. It’s kind of continuing to move forward.”
Not surprisingly bedecked in an Adidas T-shirt and off-white sneakers — some of the goodies from her new deal — and blue jeans, Shiffrin spoke to Colorado Classic racers, patrons and local dignitaries Wednesday evening.
While giving “mad respect” to the women’s racers, who took on the second stage of the Colorado Classic cycling race Friday in Avon and Beaver Creek, Shiffrin isn’t about to take up competitive cycling.
“Road rash, I never signed up for that,” she joked.
She’s also gearing up for a World Cup season, starting with the traditional Soelden, Austria, giant slalom Oct. 26. This season is the exception to the rule — the one year out of every four when there are no world championships or Olympics.
With a little more space on the calendar, particularly in late-January and February — when speed dominates a stretch of 10 of 12 World Cup events — Shiffrin dropped a hint that she may be inclined to expand her repertoire.
“There are speed races that I am considering, at least that I wouldn’t have otherwise if it were as busy as it has been,” Shiffrin said. “In a sense, the schedule is not easier but makes it possible to explore some different things. For sure, it’s a good year to push myself a little bit more, not too much but just see what the possibilities are.”
This is the typical Shiffrin caution, born of overdoing her schedule in the run-up to the 2018 Olympics in South Korea. She modified her schedule after that experience and started “only” 26 of 35 World Cup events last season. Shiffrin more than made up for it by winning 17 times and finishing in the top 10 in all of those 26 starts.
Yet it does seem some more speed — aside from the regular Lake Louise, Alberta, stop in early December — could be on the table.
Shiffrin started the Q-and-A with giving a modest assessment of her place in skiing history. While to most objective observers she is already in the “greatest of all time” discussion in the world of ski racing, Shiffrin acknowledged that there are those who will always think Ingemar Stenmark or Lindsey Vonn is the GOAT.
Shiffrin acknowledged, “On paper, I’m the best in the world right now. But what’s nice about sports is that paper resets every year. The work doesn’t stop.”
She knows that starting in Soelden, the world will be coming for her. Shiffrin will counter with her own standard — racing herself.
“Ski racing, of course, is a competition against all the competitors,” she said. “But it’s more of a competition against the clock. It’s about getting faster every day. … I find that so intriguing, and within the sport, I can explore my creativity, how to be faster, and I really, really like that.”
As a youngster, she found that creativity in watching Bode Miller and working with her parents, Jeff and Eileen, on the slopes, and she hopes that she can pass that enthusiasm for ski racing on to others.
In the meantime, she treasures her passions off the slopes or away from training, be they reading, playing the piano/singing or the occasional doughnut.
“There are no other passions. Doughnuts are the only thing in the world,” Shiffrin joked. “Just kidding. That’s going to be the headline on the newspaper.”
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