February 12, 2022
By Simon Jennings
YANQING, China (Reuters) – Skiing out of her two strongest events, slalom and giant slalom, eased the pressure on Mikaela Shiffrin, if not necessarily in a good way, and she is starting to feel better being back on her skis again, the American skier said on Saturday.
The 26-year-old Shiffrin, the most dominant skier of her generation, made a disastrous start to the Winter Olympics, missing early gates in her two opening races, but got back on her skis to finish ninth in Friday’s super-G.
“To be honest, I think, not finishing the GS (giant slalom) and the slalom that kind of took the pressure off,” she said on Saturday. “It can’t really… like it can get worse actually, it can get a lot worse.
“But performance-wise, expectation-wise, I pretty much checked that box… not in a good way, but I checked it. Now it’s just trying to get the feeling on my skis that I’m actually doing a pretty good job.”
Shiffrin was ninth in the first downhill training on Saturday, an event where she is not among the favourites.
“Yesterday (in the super-G), it was good execution and nearly exactly how I thought it would feel, so that was really awesome to ski. And today, again, it felt even better than I actually thought, so that’s also nice.”
She said she would use the next few days of training to reach a final decision on whether she would start Tuesday’s downhill race.
“I haven’t decided for sure (to ski the downhill),” Shiffrin added. “Today gives me a little bit more positivity. I would love to race this downhill. That’s the plan.
“We’re going have to see how things go as the days progress because there’s sections of this track that some of the more speed specialist skiers are going to excel at.
“They’re going to really improve that already tomorrow and I’m not sure exactly where, how I can improve. I just felt solid on my skis.
“I’ll try to keep up and we’ll see where the potential really is, but it looks good to race the downhill and as far as safety or risk I’m really happy to say that I think it’s in a pretty good position.”
Shiffrin last skied in the downhill at Lake Louise in early December, after which she missed several races after contracting COVID-19.
“It feels like it’s been a long time,” she added. “The COVID break in the middle of the season really took a lot. It’s okay, though. I mean, it felt strong and solid. And I was in a good position.
“It was never scary at any point and just a little bit of that exhilarating feeling.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)