Sticking to tech, Shiffrin ‘well-prepared’ for Worlds
Special to the Daily
AVON — Mikaela Shiffrin, in spite of setting her sights on adding super-G to her repertoire earlier this season, is going to stick with what she knows during the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
The 19-year-old Olympic gold medalist and hometown hero is more than ready to compete in the giant slalom race and defend her title in the slalom at Beaver Creek and is planning on competing in the Nations Team Event, but she will not compete in the super-G or alpine combined races.
After winning the opening World Cup race this season in a tie with Austria’s Anna Fenninger, Shiffrin’s first victory in giant slalom, the Eagle-Vail native had talked about trying her speed at super-G. She even competed in a pair of FIS super-G races at Copper Mountain in November, in which she finished a respectable 15th and 16th among a field of World Cup regulars. But she has since decided that adding disciplines to her repertoire will have to wait.
“I was hoping that getting more comfortable with speed I might set myself up to race at World Championships, but I was maybe being a little arrogant,” Shiffrin said during a news conference in Avon on Monday. “Sometimes you need a little bit of a wakeup call. I was thinking, ‘Well, my GS is good. I’m not afraid of speed. I can jump right in there with a couple days of super-G training and probably win.’ I definitely didn’t win. Super-G is not easy. Those girls who win super-G are strong skiers and know how to ski the event. And I don’t yet. I didn’t want to go to any other super-G and race my heart out and get injured.”
Sticking to only giant slalom and slalom races, Shiffrin has been home for nearly three weeks, a rarity for the Eagle-Vail resident who has spent the last three and a half years racing on the World Cup and the winters before that training and living at Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont.
“It is a special atmosphere being home,” Shiffrin said. “I feel like a little kid. I’m glad to be home in my own bed.”
Mikaela’s mother, Eileen, her constant sidekick on the World Cup, is also cherishing the rare time at home and has been lavishing her daughter with home-cooked dinners and family time.
“We’ve been doing the home-cooked everything. We’ve been staying home, playing with the cat. We love being here,” Eileen said. “The skiing has been amazing. She hasn’t had a chance to take advantage of the skiing here in a while.”
The extra time at home has allowed Mikaela to feel “very prepared” coming into the World Champs. After winning the Soelden, Austria, World Cup GS race, the defending slalom champion has finished top-three in her last four World Cup races. She took third in the Kuehtai in Tirol, Austria, GS, won the slalom at the same venue, won the slalom race in Zagreb, Croatia, and took third in the last slalom race in Flachau, Austria. She has also proven her speed on the Beaver Creek GS course, having finished second here in the 2013 World Cup GS race.
‘EXACT POSITION I WANT TO BE IN’
She said she’s feeling the pressure coming into her big hometown event, but she knows how to handle it better than ever.
“Pressure can be a very tough opponent,” she said. “The last World Championships I was in — Schladming (Austria) — was the most nervous I’ve ever been for slalom. This time I’m really well-prepared. The last few weeks of training have been spectacular. I’m more of a weathered ski racer. There’s a lot to be said for experience and knowledge. Sometimes you feel pressure at the worst points. Sometimes you don’t at all. Right now I’m trying to see my position and it’s the exact position I want to be in. That takes the pressure off.”
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.