Alpine Skiing

Mikaela Shiffrin "not a certainty" to defend Super G world title

Two-time Olympic champion says she isn't in the hunt for the overall World Cup title, but hopes to be competing in speed events by the end of January.

By Rory Jiwani ·

Mikaela Shiffrin says it's healthier for her to watch rival skiers battle it out for the overall Alpine Ski World Cup title this year.

The two-time Olympic champion made her return to action in November after 300 days away following the sudden death of her father Jeff.

She was second behind Petra Vlhova in the Levi slalom, and claimed her 67th World Cup win in the Courchevel giant slalom in mid-December.

Slovak ace Vlhova is the clear leader in the race for the overall Crystal Globe with Olympic combined champion Michelle Gisin second and Shiffrin - who won her third consecutive overall title in 2019 - 180 points off the pace in third.

Speaking in an online media conference on Friday (1 January), U.S. ski team athlete Shiffrin said, "It's motivating for me to want to get back into that fight. But it's also right now, I think, a much healthier place for me to be not in that fight. So... just watching from the side."

As to her form, she added, "On one hand it's like, 'Wow, I got a podium again, that's really exciting. And I'm not that far away, and even with mistakes I'm not that far away. So that's great.'

"But on the other hand, you're like, 'Well, the last step is the hardest to take.' So, let's just be patient. But not that patient."

While she has been competitive, the American has stuck to the technical disciplines in which she made her name, rather than attacking the speed events she has taken on more recently.

And the 25-year-old has not yet decided whether to defend her Super G crown at the World Championships in Cortina from 8-21 February.

She said, "I have not had time for speed training yet. It's kind of busy this next couple (of) weeks, but next race after Zagreb will be Flachau and then Maribor's like right after that, and then there might be a chance to get one or two sessions on the Super G skis before Kronplatz. We'd like to target that. But there's just a lot up in the air still and I'm just trying to manage everything.

"I've talked with my coaches and the team about what my plans would be. It's a little bit difficult to know exactly, because we have a really strong speed team right now and we only have a certain number of spots. What's nice is in Super G I think we have more spots because I won in Are (at 2019 Worlds).

"When I'm trying to decide which races I'm going to do, I don't want to go in and just say like, 'Oh, I just want to race because I just want to and I don't care how it goes,' because we have more than four girls who are all able to perform really well. And that's everything to them, so I'm super aware of that.

"It really depends on what kind of training I can get beforehand. I mean, I probably don't need a lot of training, but I need some and it needs to be good and productive. And not only for my chances to have some success but also, like, to be even remotely safe. Skiing isn't a safe sport but you can take some risk out of it by being prepared, and that's step number one."

"So is World Championship speed out of the cards? It's not out of the cards, but it's not a certainty right now." - Mikaela Shiffrin

Mikaela Shiffrin and her quest to be the best

She made history in Sochi at 18... but that was just the start for Mikaela ...

It has been a great season for the U.S. ski team so far with Ryan Cochran-Siegle scoring his first World Cup win in the Bormio Super-G and Breezy Johnson having two third places in consecutive days at Val d'Isere.

Paula Moltzan was second in the parallel World Cup event in Lech/Zuers in late November, and Nina O'Brien had her first top-10 finish last time out in Semmering.

Shiffrin said, "I don't know exactly why it's clicked for so many different athletes coming in at the same time, but I know like each individual story. I mean, my brother raced with Ryan growing up and I've raced with Breezy, we went to Topolino together, we went to Whistler Cup together, we roomed together at Whistler.

"I've known Paula forever as well. And Nina went to Burke. So many of these athletes who are starting to have these incredible results are athletes I've known for a really long time. They've all experienced a lot of hardship, injuries and just a bunch of different things.

"It makes it that much sweeter when you see somebody that... you know their path has been anything but easy and you see them battle their way to the top of the podium or even onto the podium for the first time. It's just really, really incredible to see that."

Next up for Shiffrin is the Zagreb slalom on Sunday with the event going ahead despite last Tuesday's earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale which had its epicentre just 50km away in Petrinja.

Vlhova claimed last year's 'Snow Queen' race, named in honour of Croatia's four-time Olympic champion Janica Kostelic, with four-time winner Shiffrin saying, "They were talking about maybe not being able to host the race, but the organisers have pulled it off and it shows how much they want to have the World Cup here.

"This is one of the classics. This is a special race in ski racing history and for them to push that hard, not only through a pandemic but also through a natural disaster, is pretty incredible."

"Hopefully, it makes all of the athletes feel like we have a purpose. It's still a really difficult time for everybody who's been affected and my heart goes out to the whole city." - Mikaela Shiffrin on racing in Sunday's Zagreb slalom

Mikaela Shiffrin: My PyeongChang Highlights

U.S. Alpine Skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin won gold in the Giant Slalom and s...