Mikaela Shiffrin is enjoying her time in sunny Andorra, but motivated to execute her “best skiing” to conclude season
All-time World Cup wins leader will end 2023 with a slalom on Saturday and giant slalom on Sunday
SOLDEU, Andorra — With victory No. 87 etched in the record books and the constant barrage of questions about Ingemar Stenmark and his former benchmark now behind her, Mikaela Shiffrin said she feels free this week in sun-drenched Andorra.
The Edwards resident also believes that she can maintain the same intensity that has propelled her to 13 victories and 16 podiums across 29 World Cup races this season — in addition to jetting past Stenmark and Lindsey Vonn — with two races remaining at World Cup Finals this weekend. Shiffrin and fellow female competitors will wrap-up the season with a slalom on Saturday and giant slalom on Sunday.
“I feel the motivation is there and I still feel this nervous anticipation feeling,” Shiffrin said after avoiding risk and finishing 14th in a super-G on Thursday. “It’s not pressure to secure globes and of course there is no more pressure about winning this 87th race. Of course, I was trying not to think about, but still when you talk about it so much, it’s hard to ignore. That’s a pretty liberating feeling actually, like kind of breaking free of something.”
“I don’t think the motivation is an issue — it’s more just how much fatigue at the end of the season plays a role in the final races,” she continued. “I hope to do some of my best skiing for two more races and I think it is fully possible. We’ll see how it goes with the results, but I think I can make some good runs with really motivated skiing.”
No matter what those results are, there will be a coronation for the undisputed queen of Alpine skiing over the coming days. Shiffrin will be awarded her seventh slalom crystal globe on Saturday, followed by her second GS globe and fifth overall title big globe on Sunday.
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While chatter about chasing records has certainly diminished at races here in the small, mountainous principality bordering France and Spain, perhaps one mark has flown slightly under the radar. Mikaela has a chance to equal or surpass her former teammate Vonn’s World Cup podium record, as she has 136 top-threes over her illustrious 12-year career, one shy of Lindsey’s 137.
Shiffrin said it’s been a whirlwind, thrilling and exhausting week, having passed Stenmark on Saturday in Åre, Sweden, celebrating her 28th birthday on Monday and traveling 1,500 miles south to Andorra.
“I’m a little bit tired, more since Åre just because it’s been so busy and there has been a lot of media which is very exciting. It’s a treasure that so many people have kind of tuned in and paid attention and so much support from everywhere, so that’s all very positive, but for sure it takes a toll,” she said.
Shiffrin was asked by a veteran Austrian journalist what the reception has been like back in the United States.
“It’s been big — I’m not there so I don’t know exactly, but from what I’ve seen there has been quite a big reaction. It’s really cool and I’m so grateful for that. I wouldn’t choose to feel any different this week. If I’m a little tired, whatever,” she responded.
As an exciting, dramatic, newsworthy and historic season draws to a close with a beach-like vibe and atmosphere in tiny Andorra, especially considering that temperatures soared to 55 degrees Fahrenheit on Thursday, Shiffrin says she is savoring her time and moments here.
“It’s kind of been a liberating feeling since Åre,” said the all-time winningest ski racer. “It’s nice to be here – I’m glad that we still have a couple more races left in the season and then I’m so excited to go home as well.”
Family, teammates, a friendly atmosphere and Norwegian boyfriend Aleksander Aamodt Kilde have all contributed to her warm and fuzzy feelings.
“He is staying for the GS and then of course, he’ll be here for the podium for the overall,” she said of Kilde, who received his second downhill title globe on Wednesday.
“My Mom is here, I got to see my brother and (sister-in-law) Kristi in Åre, so these last two weeks there have been some stressful moments, but also some wonderful, perfect, I couldn’t imagine it better moments, so I’m definitely enjoying this week a little bit more, but not anything too crazy.”
Still, Shiffrin — being the absolute perfectionist that she is — has a bit more work left over the coming 72 hours, in the form of four final competitive runs on Andorra’s softening race slopes. Competition shifts from El Tartar to up the road in nearby Soldeu for the pair of tech races. Light snow or possibly rain could play a factor this weekend. Perhaps there will even be a spark for next season, which to be blunt, doesn’t bode well for Mikaela’s competitors.
“I feel like at Finals it’s really nice to have amazing performances, but it also should be something that gives you, at least for me, direction to work on over the summer for next season and gives me this feeling that I’m not totally satisfied,” she said, her voice growing in conviction.
“I’m happy and enjoying the week, but not totally satisfied and that’s OK.”