Shiffrin heading into the homestretch
The FIS Alpine Ski World Championships, previously held at Beaver Creek in 2015, return to Are, Sweden, in February.
Heading into her final tech series before the world championships, Eagle-Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin spoke to media from Toblach, Italy, where she’s training.
Shiffrin has 11 World Cup wins this season, one shy of her career best of 12 from last season. The tech specialist is also perfect in her super-G starts this year, winning all three races.
In total, Shiffrin has 54 World Cup victories at 23 years old.
“It’s really hard to process what has happened this season,” Shiffrin said. “I don’t think I’ll ever be able to process it. Honestly, I’m still trying to process the first gold medal in Sochi.”
Shiffrin met tennis legend Roger Federer over the summer, implementing some of his wisdom into her own career this season.
“He said in his heyday when he was busiest he would have tried to take a little more time to celebrate the victories or at least just enjoy them a little bit more,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be something extravagant, and I really took that to heart.”
Shiffrin opened up about her mentality with super-G, where she’s made huge strides, and what she’s thinking when she crosses the finish line.
Plan for world championships
Shiffrin, who has attended two Olympic Games, is looking forward to the world championships in Sweden.
“World championships is super fun. It’s not like the Olympics,” she said. “The Olympics is for the fans, and the world championships are for the athletes. I can really feel that difference now and it’s something I’m really looking forward to.”
Nearing the end of the season, Shiffrin is catching up on rest and training.
“I feel relaxed right now,” she said. “It’s been a really big relief to have this little block to get some rest and some training.”
Shiffrin confers with her two closest advisors, her mother and her psyche, when deciding what events she’ll run next month in Sweden. Due to scheduling, required trainings and other factors, it’s difficult for ski racers to compete in multiple events.
“Right now, our Plan A is super-G, slalom and GS,” Shiffrin said. “Plan B is super-G, alpine combined, slalom and GS, but I’m not sure how well I would be able to manage that the way the schedule plays out.”
Priorities remain slalom and GS for Shiffrin, for this year at least.
Each year before the ski season, Shiffrin sets her goals.
After three wins in three tries in super-G this year, she briefly considered changing her goals.
“I did think about it for a split second and then I tried to reel my brain back down to earth,” she said. “The super-G title was not one of the goals that I had set for this season, and I try to be really careful about not overshooting or changing my plans like crazy in the middle of the season. That might sound kind of stubborn because for sure I’m in an amazing spot in super-G right now, but I think it would add one too many things to the plate and could potentially kind of ruin all of my other goals.”
Last year in Sweden, Shiffrin got the chance to inspect the super-G course.
“To be honest, I want to ski the super-G, not necessarily because I’ve won the last three super-Gs I started, but more just because this track looks really, really fun. Super-G is also just one day, you don’t have to do all of the downhill training runs to run the super-G, so I feel like it’s just the perfect event to ski instead of targeting the downhill or even the combined.”
What is she thinking?
It can be hard to read her mind when she crosses the finish line — either in shock, anger or confusion — but Shiffrin is just doing what she’s done since her early days of skiing.
“I was always taught to always reflect on every run I took,” she said, citing her mother and coaches along the way. “In a way, it’s like self-coaching.”
Kirk Dwyer, head of Ski & Snowboard Club Vail and one of Shiffrin’s earliest coaches, really drilled the habit into Shiffrin.
“In races, if I wasn’t able to tell him what I felt in the race, then he would actually be disappointed,” she recalled. “I think that’s been really important in my career to be able to self analyze before I even see the video or get feedback. And that’s still what I do even in races. So when I put my head down when coming in second to Petra (Vlhova) in Flachau (Austria), it’s kind of a mix of disappointment in myself but also taking a moment to reflect.”
Shiffrin said the cameras are sometimes more in her face after an upset (when she doesn’t win) than when she gets a victory.
“It’s just trying to block out the world for a second to think because that initial feeling is probably the most important feeling you can have. That’s something I’ve learned from the beginning.”
Shiffrin also explained her often confused look, even after winning.
“Even when I have victories and often am stone-faced — first of all I’m just trying to find the scoreboard,” she said. “I feel like I’m the only athlete on the mountain who doesn’t know where the scoreboard is when they come through the finish.”
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Those opting for the spring, like Aspen and Basalt, will begin football practice Feb. 25 and start playing games March 11.