Shiffrin ready to use 'strong voice'

Courchevel (France) (AFP) –


US star Mikaela Shiffrin is arguably the most recognisable face in skiing after the retirement of compatriot Lindsey Vonn and Austrian great Marcel Hirscher -- and she says she intends to use her voice to be heard.

Joint second for individual World Cup wins, with 62, Shiffrin is the circuit's defending three-time overall champion, a four-time reigning world champion in slalom and a two-time Olympic gold medallist.

It is easy to forget that Shiffrin is still just 24 years of age as she grows into the role of being able to speak out on issues affecting alpine skiing.

"I'm still young," Shiffrin told AFP in an interview in the French Alpine resort of Courchevel.

"Right now I have probably a strong voice because of my successes... Every year I become more a spokesperson for myself or for the sport, and every year I feel more comfortable to have my own opinions and to speak out about that."

Shiffrin said skiers needed to come together to present a united front when dealing with the sport's governing body, the International Ski Federation (FIS).

"With one athlete talking or complaining about something, it doesn't really change," she said.

"When the athletes are together that becomes more powerful to face FIS."

- Ice to dirt -

Shiffrin also suggested that FIS need to hone their calendar, with a US tour proper before heading to Europe, in a bid to reduce the carbon footprint of a winter sport particularly affected by climate change.

"It's quite clear even when we go to Soelden each year we can see that the ice's starting to become dirt," the American said of the season's opening event on the Austrian glacier.

"It's a sport where we rely on the environment and we're not able to minimise the footprint we leave on the environment. It is quite a big contradiction.

"Right now there's a lot more awareness about the impact humans have on the environment, and also sport.

"I think about it a lot, what can ski racing do to continue the sport in the future? Because that's the question. Will we really have snow? How many years?"

Shiffrin added that she didn't want to think back in 40 years' time and realise she was "missing the point" when it came to the environment.

"That's the biggest question in my mind really," she said.

For now her mind is on the piste after she finished a lowly 17th in Tuesday's giant slalom in Courchevel, a performance that failed to reflect her position atop the World Cup overall standings.

"I guess it's pretty obvious that I'm disappointed and I have absolutely no excuses. It's on me. Well, happens," she tweeted after her disappointing run.

Shiffrin opted not to compete in Thursday's downhill training in Val d'Isere, hinting that she might take a break following her performance in Courchevel, something she said had "forced me to re-evaluate the coming weeks".