US ski star Shiffrin aims for more Olympic gold
Mikaela Shiffrin will head to Beijing with a proven Olympic record and on the back of World Cup form after a tumultuous year that has kept her in the spotlight as one of the best female alpine skiers in the world.
Despite her medal haul, Shiffrin insisted that she keep her three Olympic medals wrapped in socks and tucked away in a drawer, and only hung her world championship medals to fill the dead wall space.
It’s indicative of the American’s cutting-edge approach to ski racing, which was cultivated from an early age.
It’s easy to forget that Shiffrin is just 26, having remarkably won her first world slalom gold in Schladming in 2013 aged just 17, two years after her World Cup debut.
The statistics are truly amazing. She went on to win three more world slalom titles in 2015, 2017 and 2019 as well as the Olympic slalom title in 2014 before winning giant slalom gold and combined silver at the Pyeongchang Games in 2018.
Three-time defending overall champion Shiffrin has already notched 73 World Cup victories, including 47 in slalom, leaving her within touching distance of retired former USA teammate Lindsey Vonn’s women’s record of 82 Cup victories. of the world.
She also racked up victories in the giant slalom (14), combined (one), parallel slalom (four), city event (three), downhill (two) and super-G (four), making her the only female skier men’s or women’s, having won in all FIS disciplines.
– Champion spirit –
Coach Mike Day is convinced that Shiffrin is one of the greatest skiers of all time.
“She’s an extremely solid skier,” Day told AFP in an interview. “She built her fundamental foundation at a young age and it’s very solid.
“She has this champion mindset, the ability to perform on demand, even when she’s not at her best, she goes out and performs. Because she’s such a good skier, she’s able to produce this volume and be this complete, and was able to transition to a four event skier smoothly and efficiently.”
As astonishing as her winning numbers may be, they are lost on Shiffrin herself – she argues that statistics and numbers “dehumanize the sport and what every athlete is trying to achieve”.
“My goal has never been to break records for the most World Cup wins, points or world championship medals,” she said.
It is this esoteric approach to skiing that is sometimes difficult for spectators to grasp: it derives as much pleasure from a well-executed turn in training as from winning another medal.
Shiffrin, who put on her first skis at the age of three in Vail, Colorado, where she grew up, gave an indication of the route her race would take when asked after winning her medal gold in slalom at the 2013 Schladming World Championships at the age of 17.
“It’s been 17 years in the making. Everyone says it’s coming so fast, but it feels like an eternity to me,” she said at the time.
Mature beyond her years, focused and driven, she remained calm after her success, refusing to give in to outside pressure and preferring to remember why she started skiing in the first place.
“I just do what I do and I don’t want to wait,” she said. “The best feeling I can feel is knowing that I’m improving and doing everything I can to be in the moment and do my best. I feel that when I’m skiing.”
– Until the sun goes down –
Pushed by her parents and eager to copy her skier brother, Shiffrin left Vail at the age of eight to join Burke Mountain Academy, a private school specializing in ski racing, before making her World Cup debut in March. 2011.
“Since she was little, she would go into the sunset,” Eileen Shiffrin said of her hard-working daughter. “She can do a lot of errands. She just keeps going.”
Shiffrin’s three-season streak as Women’s World Cup champion ended with a horrific season marked by the sudden death of her father Jeff in February 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic and a back injury while that she was without a win for the first time since her debut campaign, 2011–12, when she was 16.
After her father’s death, she returned home to Colorado and spent over 300 days off the trails. It was a year, she said, that “felt like 20 years.”
Last season, Shiffrin rebuilt by focusing on technical events, slalom and giant slalom.
Her successful 2021 World Championships in Cortina d’Ampezzo, where she finished on the podium in all four of her races and won the combined, could serve as a model for the Beijing Olympics where she could win a third consecutive gold medal.