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Shiffrin going full speed ahead

Updated: 2022-10-14 09:18
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Mikaela Shiffrin of the US in action during the women's giant slalom competition at an FIS Alpine Ski World Cup meet in Courchevel, France, on March 20. [Photo/Agencies]

American gearing up for new season with extra focus on faster events after lackluster Olympics campaign

Mikaela Shiffrin is preparing for what could be her busiest Alpine ski racing season ever.

It might become her fastest, too.

Coming off a season that included Olympic disappointment but also her fourth overall World Cup title, the American is eager to add more speed events to her schedule. The World Cup season, which starts with a giant slalom in Austria on Oct 22, includes 42 races, plus six events at the world championships in France in February.

"I'm probably not going to do all of them. But I would like to focus a bit more on some of the super-G races and, for sure, all the slaloms and the GS," Shiffrin told The Associated Press in a recent video call.

Shiffrin has never raced more than 26 World Cup events in any of her 11 seasons on the circuit. That could change in 2022-23, with 11 slaloms, 10 giant slaloms and nine super-Gs on the cards.

And don't rule out a few downhill starts, too, even though she will sit out the new Zermatt-Cervinia speed season opener early November.

"Downhill takes more time, more days, more effort, so then it's less training for other events. We pick and choose which downhill is possible," said Shiffrin, adding it "brings me a lot of joy, to ski super-G, as long as my slalom and GS feel like they are on point, then we try that out".

Going into the new season also draws a line under the previous one, which was overshadowed by Shiffrin's surprising lack of medals at the Beijing Olympics, where she failed to finish any of the tech races and placed ninth in super-G and 18th in downhill.

"The biggest takeaway from the Olympics is …those races didn't take away anything from anything else that happened in my career," Shiffrin said.

"It's not that I don't know (what went wrong), it's that I could tell you a list of things that went wrong in the months leading up to going to Beijing, and then in Beijing as well. I still might have been able to succeed, but I didn't," she added. "I think in any universe, in a parallel realm, if I were to be able to go back, it would probably happen that way again. It's just something that needed to happen in my career."

Starting preparations for the new season early, Shiffrin trained some downhill in the springtime, before focusing on super-G, GS and slalom during a camp in Chile in September.

"It was a really productive camp and I feel in a good place, physically and with my skiing. I'm anxious to get really started and put the training we have done and the work we have done to the test," she said.

Shiffrin starts the season on 74 World Cup wins, just eight short of Lindsey Vonn's women's record and 12 shy of Ingemar Stenmark's overall mark.

Shiffrin's tally includes seven speed victories — four in super-G, three in downhill, including in the final speed race of last season that helped her clinch the overall title.

Her reinforced speed ambitions get impetus from her Austria-based equipment supplier.

After the departure of her long-term ski technician, Johann Strobl, in the offseason, Atomic has provided her with two successors: Austrians Robert Burgler and Lukas Rottinger, with the latter handling Shiffrin's speed ski setup.

While Burgler previously worked with 2005 overall champion Benjamin Raich and, more recently, Austrian slalom specialists Marco Schwarz and Manuel Feller, Rottinger prepared equipment for Marcel Hirscher in the Austrian great's final season before retiring in 2019.

Having an extra ski technician — commonly referred to as a "serviceman" — gives Shiffrin and her team more flexibility in opting for speed training and selecting the super-G and downhill races she wants to compete in.

"They have the time they need to do the work but also the time to get recovery and get back to the factory every couple of weeks to regrind the skis or pick up new skis. It's a huge process," Shiffrin said. "It's important to be like quite good friends with your servicemen. Because in the end, they are the last person you see in the start gate, they are the person you are working with so closely every single training day, talking about developing equipment."

And then there is her boyfriend, Norwegian speed specialist Aleksander Aamodt Kilde.

Kilde won both the downhill and the super-G standings last season and could certainly be of additional help in Shiffrin's speed campaign.

Kilde said the pair "can share experiences when it comes to skiing and training" but were also trying not to overdo it.

"We are in our bubbles, we have our own routines, we kind of want to stay a little bit away from each other, too," Kilde said. "We want to focus and not get into each other's head, too. It's a fine balance."

Agencies via Xinhua

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