By Rory Carroll
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – American Mikaela Shiffrin relishes the opportunity to be a multiple-medal threat at the Olympics in Pyeongchang next month and is brimming with confidence after a dominant run through World Cup events in the lead up to the Games.
The 22-year-old Alpine ski racer heads to her second Olympic Games oozing with confidence after notching 37 World Cup wins, including the first ever in downhill late last year which stunned the skiing world.
Her torrid pace at World Cup events puts her on track to top Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time record of 86 wins.
But the slalom specialist will soon be ready to shift her focus from racking up World Cup wins to claiming medals on the sport’s biggest stage.
In a statement that should strike fear into the hearts of her competitors, she told Reuters that she was a better skiier now than she was when the then 18-year-old from Colorado won gold in slalom in Sochi, becoming the youngest women’s slalom champion in Olympic history.
“Being four years older I feel like I have more experience and knowledge under my belt,” she said.
“But especially since I have improved my skiing a lot since Sochi and I have had more success in events other than slalom, I feel like I’m going into Pyeongchang with the unique opportunity to be a multiple event medal threat, which is super cool.”
Despite her success in downhill, where she earned her maiden World Cup victory in the discipline at Canada’s Lake Louise in early December, she is resisting the urge to stretch herself too thin in South Korea.
“Right now I am planning slalom, giant slalom, Alpine combined, and Super-G,” she said.
“But that is tentative and always subject to change,” she said, adding that she will finalise her program closer to the Games.
Tom Kelly, vice president of communications at U.S. Ski & Snowboard, reckoned what separated Shiffrin from the rest of the field was her complete devotion to the sport.
“She is an amazing human being,” he told Reuters.
“She is a very unique individual and the passion that she has for this sport is really unmatched.”
Shiffrin’s confidence also comes from knowing that her tight-knit family, which includes her ski racing parents Eileen and Jeff, will have her back no matter how she performs in Pyeongchang.
“I think there are huge advantages of having such a close and supportive family,” she said.
“First and foremost the fact that I know they are always looking out for my best interest and even if I come up short of my goals they will love me anyway.”
The Olympics will run from Feb. 9 to Feb. 25.
(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles; editing by Amlan Chakraborty)