It’s never been just about wins for Mikaela Shiffrin.
Not when she didn’t win any of her five individual races at last year’s Beijing Olympics.
And not during her current five-race winning streak.
Even when her next victory will tie her with Lindsey Vonn for the women’s World Cup record at 82 wins apiece.
“She’s a great process-oriented person,” U.S. ski team women’s head coach Paul Kristofic said. “There’s a lot of media attention around records right now but that’s honestly not really the motivating factor every day when she goes to race.
“It’s about trying to execute as well as she possibly can, ski as well as she possibly can and we know that when she’s able to do that the results are there.”
With two giant slaloms scheduled for Saturday and Sunday in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, Shiffrin has a chance to both match and surpass Vonn’s mark this weekend. Then she can take aim at the overall record — between men and women — of 86 wins set by Ingemark Stenmark.
At age 27, Shiffrin might be in the best form of her career, which is saying a lot for a racer with four overall World Cup titles, two Olympic gold medals (from 2014 and 2018) and six golds at world championships.
Even she acknowledges that she has been displaying her “best skiing” lately.
“I am so happy and proud and thankful for that, because it feels so good,” she said after victory No. 81 on Wednesday in a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia. “And it’s a reminder at this point, after 81 victories, that I can really, really enjoy skiing when I’m skiing like that.”
It’s been quite a contrast from her performance in Beijing last winter, when Shiffrin entered amid huge expectations and came away with three DNFs, a top individual finish of ninth and nary a medal.
“Her coping strategy for when there are difficult days has improved over time, having gone through some tough times,” Kristofic said in a phone interview Friday as he drove to the races in Slovenia. “That’s the luxury of experience and perspective.
“These things happen to pretty much every ski racer where you have one bad moment, and how do you manage that so you can rebound and be focused on the right things to really make positive improvements?” added Kristofic, who also coached Vonn at the end of her career. “Maturity comes with some experience and she’s had plenty of those experiences and she’s learned from all of them.”
With seven wins across three different disciplines in 13 races this season, Shiffrin has been on another level this season even by her lofty standards.
“For my coaches, for the whole team around me, they see it in training. It’s exciting in training but, in the end, everybody is hopeful that I’m going to put it into a race and the last five races it’s been a different kind of level,” Shiffrin said.
“You can’t put a meaning on the number but right now I feel like I’m just riding a wave and I’m going to ride it until it’s over, because the only thing I can really guarantee is that at some point it ends and I’ll have to be the one who takes the defeat.”
Andrew Dampf is at https://twitter.com/AndrewDampf
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