Ski queen Shiffrin eyes fantastic four

Ski queen Shiffrin eyes fantastic four

WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
Ski queen Shiffrin eyes fantastic four

In a moment of teen exuberance after winning the 2014 Olympic slalom gold, Mikaela Shiffrin blurted out her dream of winning five gold medals at the Pyeongchang Games.

Now with the showdown in South Korea less than two weeks away, the 22-year-old American is leading the Alpine Ski World Cup overall standings and is a serious threat for multiple medals.

“I still haven’t had a chance to let it sink in,” Shiffrin says of her Sochi success. “I guess the best way to realize it is to just go to Korea and win some more.”

Three-time reigning world slalom champion Shiffrin has won nine World Cup races this season, boosting her career total to 40. She captured four races in seven days to begin 2018.

In a timely reality check, she overbalanced a missed a gate when yards from victory at the Lenzerheide slalom on Jan. 28, opening the door to her Sloval rival Petra Vhlova.

Despite the error, she figures to be favored in Olympic slalom and giant slalom. She is also likely to chase the combined crown, and could make a run at the downhill as well.

“If I compete in four events, it’s because I think I have shot to medal in four events,” Shiffrin said.

“Five might be biting off too much. Even though I did go on record saying I want five gold medals -- I want the world and [to be] the king of the universe and all those things.”

This time, Shiffrin is a target rather than a talented prodigy and has had to deal with fame and success and its impact on training time.

“I feel like my face has been out there more than it was four years ago,” Shiffrin said. “It’s adding more that I have to manage and still be able to go back to training and keep my nose to the grindstone.

“Sometimes the next challenge feels like the very next day of skiing. The challenge is to find ways to improve. I was at the top in slalom and now the top at giant slalom. I need to work on building my strength, technique and speed and it’s more in practice than it is in events.”

There’s plenty of hype and expectation around Shiffrin’s bid to become the first back-to-back Olympic slalom champion.

“When I start to think about expectations, it’s too much to focus on. The thing I concentrate on is trying to meet my own goals,” she said.

“I don’t have to change my tactics [for the Olympics]. I can focus on those goals. It’s a season-long thing. I’ll be hoping to perform well in every style race and the best thing I can do to prepare for the Olympics is have a great season.”
When it comes to looking ahead to the starting gate in the South Korean mountains, Shiffrin isn’t fretting about the emotions she might feel.

“I’m pretty much in control of where my nerves are,” Shiffrin said. “Not to say I won’t be nervous before the first race at the Olympics but I’m not really nervous.”

It’s in part because she has put in the work during training. One exercise has her pulling a sled up a hill for 45-second bursts multiple times.

“After 20 seconds, you’re already thinking, ‘I don’t think I can do it.’ Coach says, ‘Come on. You can do it now,’” Shiffrin said. “It’s one of those things where you are taken out the rest of the day.”

Shiffrin said building strength has been a key to avoiding major injury as well as speed in combination with technique drills.

“A lot of it is in my preparations in the gym,” Shiffrin said. “Luck looks a lot like hard work in disguise.”

Pyeongchang Games, Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, North Korea,