American skiing star says Covid restrictions and unpredictable weather present challenges
American skiing star Mikaela Shiffrin said on Friday that she was planning for the Beijing Olympics in February with some anxiety as she looked forward to a season that starts next weekend.
“You would hope you were going to the Olympics, this is a great event. This is the highlight of my career, all these things and it’s going to be great,” she said.
“And more often than not, it’s very uncomfortable, the entire time.”
Last season, Shiffrin focused on the technical events, the slalom and the giant slalom as she rebuilt following a nightmarish 2019-20 season.
This season, which starts with a giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on October 23, she said she wants to try to also win in speed events.
“Ideally, I’ll be running a similar schedule to what I’ve had in years prior to last season, but we’ll have to see how that goes,” said the 26-year-old American who won the overall World Cup title for three straight years to 2019.
That streak ended with a horrible season marked by the sudden death of her father in February 2020, the pandemic and by a back injury as she went winless for the first time since her debut campaign, 2011-12, when she was 16.
Last season she had three wins, one in the giant and two in the slalom, to take her World Cup tally to 69, which includes one downhill and four in Super G.
She has her sights set on the record of 86 victories, all in the slalom or giant slalom, set by Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden between 1974 and 1989.
Her successful World Championships last February in Cortina d’Ampezzo, where she finished on the podium in all four of her races and won the combined, could serve as a blueprint for the Beijing Olympics next February where she could win a third consecutive gold in slalom.
But, she said, her form, her fitness and the demands of the Olympics could force her to revise the plan.
“I’ll definitely consider how the toll is going to take physically, and also mentally to try to kick off this season, racing technical events and speed and then also how that’s going to build up to the Olympics,” she said
“As we get closer, we’re going to have to sort of reevaluate where I am and how I’m feeling.”
She said the Asian location of the Olympic and Chinese Covid restrictions as well as the uncertainty caused by unpredictable weather, presented challenges.
“As soon as we hit the ground there we will have jetlag,” she said making clear she had studied the Games calendar.
“We’re going to be going into a race then a day training, then a day of racing then a day of training, then a day of racing, then two days of training, then a day of racing, then two days of training and then another day racing,” she said.
“There’s not a whole lot of recovery or rest that you can plan to get. We also know that like the weather can literally change everything.
“You can make every move right to be rested ready to go strong, and it still can be totally messed up for essentially reasons that are completely out of your control,” she said.
“Feeling pressure is extremely uncomfortable,” she said adding that she had been following the Summer Games last year and thought Covid restrictions had made that worse.
“Look at the Tokyo Olympics and so many athletes walking away from there,” she said.