Shiffrin shifts focus from record chase to medal races at FIS Alpine ski World Championships in Courchevel and Meribel, France
Skier expected to compete in four events at first global championships since Beijing Olympics
Perspective. The big picture. Dealing with both success and failure.
Mikaela Shiffrin did a lot of soul searching after she didn’t win a medal and didn’t finish three of her five individual races at last year’s Beijing Olympics after entering the games amid enormous expectations.
“Accept a little bit more that sometimes things are not going to go the way that I really hope,” the American skier said. “Even if I work hard and I try really hard and I think I’m doing all the right things, sometimes it’s not going to work, and that’s just how it is. That’s how it goes in life. Sometimes you fail and then sometimes you succeed. And I feel much more comfortable with both extremes and maybe a little bit less stressed about it in general.”
That less-stress approach is working out just fine for Shiffrin, who has been having a record-breaking World Cup season.
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But that version of record-hunting — the one where Shiffrin has eclipsed Lindsey Vonn for the most World Cup wins on the all-time women’s list and needs only one more to match Ingemar Stenmark’s overall mark of 86 victories — goes on hold now as Shiffrin shifts to another challenge: competing in her first major event since Beijing.
The Alpine skiing world championships open Monday in Courchevel and Meribel, France, with Shiffrin again expected to be a medal contender in all four of the events she’ll likely compete in.
While it might not attract the same amount of attention — especially in the United States — the worlds follow nearly the same exact format of the Olympic skiing program.
Seems like the perfect opportunity for Shiffrin to be motivated for redemption, right?
“Actually no, not really,” Shiffrin said. “If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what. So I kind of don’t care.”
In addition, the 27-year-old Shiffrin said on another recent day: “I feel more comfortable with the pressure and more comfortable with the stress of racing. So then I can actually enjoy that process.”
While wins at world championships don’t count toward Shiffrin’s World Cup total, they could add to her almost equally impressive career record at worlds.
In 13 races at the next biggest event in skiing after the Olympics, Shiffrin has claimed six golds and 11 medals overall. The last time she didn’t medal in a race at worlds came eight years ago, when she was still a teenager.
Shiffrin will likely enter four events at worlds — combined, super-G, giant slalom and slalom.
She said recently that she’s “pretty sure” she won’t race the downhill. And she probably won’t enter the parallel event, either, because it’s rough on her back.
The combined, which she dominated at the last worlds in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, two years ago, opens the championships on Monday. It’s an event that combines the times from one super-G run and one slalom run.
The worlds will be held at two different locations, separated by a 15-minute drive but connected by gondolas and ski slopes.
The women will compete in Meribel on the Roc de Fer course that was designed for the 1992 Albertville Olympics, while the men will race in Courchevel on the new l’Eclipse course that made its debut during last season’s World Cup finals.
While Shiffrin excels in the technical disciplines of slalom and giant slalom, her Norwegian boyfriend, Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, is a specialist at downhill and super-G.
A former overall World Cup champion and a winner of silver (in combined) and bronze (in super-G) in Beijing, Kilde is still chasing his first medal at a world championships, having missed the 2021 event because of injury.
American medal hopes
After the U.S. team — men and women — produced only one medal in Beijing, the squad is hoping for many more at this event, and not just from Shiffrin.
Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who took silver in last year’s Olympic super-G, remains a medal threat in multiple events. Also, Travis Ganong enters fresh off a third-place finish at the feared Kitzbuehel downhill in his farewell season.
On the women’s side, Paula Moltzan placed second behind Shiffrin in December for the U.S. team’s first 1-2 finish in a women’s World Cup slalom since 1971. And now Moltzan has qualified for the group of seven top-seeded women for slalom. Also, Breezy Johnson and Nina O’Brien continue to improve after returning from injury.
United States’ Paula Moltzan reacts after completing an alpine ski, women’s World Cup slalom, in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic, Saturday, Jan. 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Giovanni Maria Pizzato)
“People always talk about of how many medals do you want to win? What’s the goal? What’s the number? I think for us, the key thing is let’s go out there and ski the best we can,” said U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml, who was rehired by the team following the disappointing results in Beijing.
“I focus on the process — go out there, make good turns, and then I think we have the potential to win some medals,” Riml added. “I feel pretty good about where we at right now and also how are we going to progress going forward.”