Mikaela Shiffrin thanks team, coaches, fans, explains approach to world champs
‘Cortina was the start of a new beginning’
Mikaela Shiffrin issued a lengthy statement on Friday through the U.S. Ski Team thanking everyone involved in the recent FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Cortina, Italy, where she won four medals (gold in combined, silver in giant slalom and bronze in both super-G and slalom) and shedding a little light on her thought process for the entire 2020-21 World Cup season.
A lot of the release covers familiar territory for local readers: The understandable shock of Jeff Shiffrin’s passing, the amount of time it took for Shiffrin herself to take over the business side of the operation in Jeff’s absence (and the time it took from training for the season), the added uncertaintly of COVID-19 on top of all of this and that her racing wasn’t up to her standards.
“Truth be told, my feeling about my skiing and my confidence at races before Cortina was not great…it was up and down and kind of reflected my year as a whole,” Shiffrin wrote. “But, I started feeling some happiness and exhilaration when we broke out the super-G skis again just prior to World Champs.”
This confirms something about which we were speculating as the super-G and the combined unfolded in Cortina. Shiffrin did get a big boost from changing up her routine from tech only (giant slaloms and slaloms) to some speed.
While Shiffrin will conclude her 2020-21 season, starting next weekend, with tech only in Jasna, Slovakia, Are, Sweden, and the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, it seems that that worlds 2021 reinforced that Shiffrin benfits from a bit of variety.
She will always be based in her tech skills, but don’t be surprised if more speed goes on the calendar in 2021-22, especially with the Winter Olympics on the horizon.
The statement also sheds light on her battle with expectations, particularly with regard to major events like the worlds and Olympics.
“I know that if I only skied GS and SL and won the gold in SL again, people/the press would ask why I didn’t do more events,” she wrote. “I also knew that if I took a chance on more events, I would be pushing the limit on my chances/ability to win gold in any of them and if I missed gold in slalom, I would likely be criticized for that too.”
This has been a theme of Shiffrin’s professional life — with her prodigious talent, how many events should she enter? There was a lot of to-do during the 2019 worlds with Lindsey Vonn and Shiffrin with the former wondering why the latter wasn’t competing in all five events. Shiffrin won super-G and slalom gold and bronze in GS in the three events she entered in Sweden, so that worked out.
Weather at the 2018 Olympics really messed with Shiffrin’s competitions in South Korea. Though she did win gold in the GS and silver in the combined, postponements put the GS and slalom on back-to-back days. Shiffrin finished fourth in the slalom, her specialty of specialties.
What will she do in Beijing next winter with the specter and pressure to enter as many events as possible?
Shiffrin also disclosed that she was not happy with her skiing in her bronze-medal slalom performance.
“As far as slalom goes, truthfully, I was disappointed with my skiing as I don’t think it was reflective of either my current skiing or my team’s efforts to provide the absolute best and most efficient preparation to give me a shot at the slalom gold,” Shiffrin wrote. “BUT, I said it after the super-G and I’ll say it again now, I don’t want to play the “shoulda, woulda, coulda” game. What happened is what happened and I can only learn from it and try to do better in the future.“
She made no excuses — she doesn’t — and went on to congratulate all involved — she’s always diplomatic — but that’s Shiffrin chewing herself out for a poor performance.
We just bring this up because after a 17th-place finish last season in a World Cup slalom in Courchevel, France, which also happens to be the site of 2023 worlds, she beat herself up a bit on social media and then proceeded to sweep a giant slalom and slalom in Lienz, Austria, a little more than week later. Just a thought.
Using her father’s saying, “Be nice. Think first. Have fun,” as a lodestar, Shiffrin naturally thanked everyone involved in Cortina — her team, the U.S. Team, Cortina for staging the event, the fans and everyone except the Hollywood Foreign Press.
“So, in the end, Cortina was the start of a new beginning and exploring a different strategic approach with some risk-taking for me and I think the USA showed it’s the beginning of a whole new era of young skiers where the world could very well be their oyster,” she wrote.
“Thank you so much for your support.”