Record-holder Shiffrin looks to break new ground in downhill

Record-holder Shiffrin looks to break new ground in downhill
Record-holder Shiffrin looks to break new ground in downhill
Record-holder Shiffrin looks to break new ground in downhill
American slalom queen Mikaela Shiffrin (28) is ready to explore her abilities in downhill skiing after becoming the most successful competitor at the Alpine World Cup, the twice Olympic gold medallist told Reuters.

Shiffrin surpassed Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark's record with an 87th World Cup win last month and then extended her haul to 88 titles as she etched her name in the pantheon of sporting greats.

A slalom specialist by trade, having won 53 of her World Cup golds in the event compared to just three in the downhill - she wants to broaden her skillset.

"I don't think I could ever switch from slalom to downhill. But I do feel like I want to branch more into exploring what my abilities are in downhill," said Shiffrin.

"I feel like there's a couple key elements that I've been lacking and I kind of have it in super-G a little bit more. So I feel, like, quite comfortable - slalom giant, slalom super-G - but downhill is a little bit of an unexplored world for me."

The seven-times World gold medallist was named among Time magazine's 100 most influential figures this year, with the ski community pinning its hopes on her to elevate the sport in the United States, which trails behind European powerhouses in terms of both fans and participation.

"Probably one of the hardest things to do in the US, specifically, is to actually tap into all the talent that exists," said Shiffrin.

"You actually need to put development systems in place and you need to cover the span of the entire country everywhere where snow would be a possibility for anybody. And it's a lot of ground to cover."

Shiffrin recently returned from a training camp in Norway, where she spent time working on speed in both downhill and super-G with new head coach Karin Harjo, the former Alpine Canada women's national coach.

Harjo brings a vast Alpine IQ and has revolutionised how Shiffrin tracks her technical gear.

"She's been able to develop a kind of spreadsheet for tracking the equipment we use. That's something I've been missing for - honestly, for 12 years," said Shiffrin.

"There's all these different variables and it's like, 'Can you help me find a way to put these variables into a database that we can actually read and create a common language for?'"

But there are some variables too complicated to tame: With the next Winter Games three years out, Shiffrin has learned to approach the Olympics without "any expectations at all" after leaving Beijing last year empty handed.

She earned widespread praise for her poise amid bitter disappointment and said the experience helped teach her "how to handle when life goes well, and also how to handle when it goes poorly.

"If I could do anything different, like, I'd win a medal," said Shiffrin, whose ongoing YouTube series provides fans a behind-the-scenes look at her triumphs and struggles.

"You can't do that different on purpose. I'll go into the next Olympics in the same exact way that I went into this past one, and things might change and be drastically different for me just because the location and the snow conditions are going to be different."


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