Shiffrin rebounds from annus horribilis with four more world medals

Cortina d'Ampezzo (Italy) (AFP) –


Mikaela Shiffrin will leave Cortina d'Ampezzo with four more world championship medals and a step closer to taking over as the doyenne of women's skiing.

The American followed bronze in the super-G by alpine combined gold, giant slalom silver and a bronze in Saturday's sun-kissed slalom.

Shiffrin's latest medal haul saw her become the US skier with most world titles (six) and world medals (11), overtaking Ted Ligety and Lindsey Vonn respectively. Only two female skiers have amassed more medals: Germany's Christl Cranz (15) and Anja Paerson of Sweden (13).

"It's incredible," Shiffrin admitted. "I had planned for four races and I thought 'OK that's four chances for a medal' and hopefully in these two weeks I can do some good skiing.

"I'm really proud of so much of the skiing I did."

Shiffrin, 25, enjoys an esoteric approach to skiing that is sometimes difficult for onlookers to fully appreciate: she will derive as much pleasure from a well-executed turn in training as she does from collecting another medal.

"Today on the first run I was disappointed," she said after her bronze medal in the slalom.

"I don't think I could have done something to change the colour of the medal. I still walk away with a bronze, a fourth medal so I'm happy with that."

Shiffrin said the result was a "little bittersweet".

"I got a podium but I would have liked to have felt better skiing, so there's a little bit of a discrepancy there!" she said. "It's still incredible."

- Overcoming grief -

After the annus horribilis Shiffrin and her family have been through, her medalling at all in the Italian Dolomites is nothing short of extraordinary.

When her father Jeff died unexpectedly last year, Shiffrin immediately returned home to Colorado and spent more than 300 days off the piste, albeit in a season cut short by the Covid-19 pandemic. It was a year, she said, that felt like 20 years.

Regarding the coronavirus crisis, Shiffrin said "it would be good to finish out the season being able to actually to ski".

"Hopefully in this summer we'll be able to get back to more normal life for everybody.

"For the athletes that will definitely help getting a little bit more normal preparation and equipment testing and all of the things that go into putting together a good performance for the entire season, especially an Olympic season."

The 2022 Beijing Games are now just less than a year away, but Shiffrin -- a two-time Olympic gold medallist -- would not be drawn.

"It's always tough because it's a year away," she said. "It just totally depends how next season is going leading up to that.

"I can feel amazing now with a good mentality and then that totally changes. If I think back on the last year, it feels like it lasted 20 years.

"I don't know what's in store for the next year but I imagine it's going to be eventful."

Austria's Katharina Liensberger, who at 23 is two years younger than Shiffrin, dominated the slalom in another race showcasing the strength in depth among current women racers.

Slovakia's Petra Vlhova won silver one second off the pace, while Shiffrin was at 1.98sec.

"It was only a matter of time for her to win her first slalom race and she picked a good one!" said Shiffrin.

"She's skiing so strong, she has a healthy mentality, she's really motivated and an amazing competitor.

"She's leading the next generation of athletes. She's going to keep the inspiration going for a while, that's one thing this sport needs."

Shiffrin said she wasn't too upset to miss out on what would have been a history-making fifth consecutive world title.

"Streaks can go on forever if you keep winning, but at some point you're not going to win. It was only a matter of time," she said.

Ever the competitor, one of Shiffrin's first reactions after the slalom was to look ahead to future training.

"Regroup... then I've got to shave two seconds off my slalom, so it's back to work!"