Home-course advantage: Shiffrin is a fan favorite at world championships | PostIndependent.com

Home-course advantage: Shiffrin is a fan favorite at world championships

Mikaela Shiffrin competes in the team event this week at the world championships
Alessandro Trovati / AP | AP

BEAVER CREEK — Olympic and world slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin had to wait a week, but she’s finally set for the world championships competition in her backyard.

The American teenager from the Eagle-Vail area will race in the giant slalom today and the slalom, her signature event, on Saturday.

It’s Lindsey Vonn’s backyard, too, and she’ll also be competing in the GS today. But Shiffrin is eager for the challenge.

“I feel like a little kid. It’s a special atmosphere, being home,” said Shiffrin, who has a road in the area named in her honor. “I’m at home with my mom and dad. It’s amazing to sleep in my own bed.”

The 19-year-old Shiffrin has spent plenty of training for the biggest event of the season. It’s almost the end of the two-week world championships and she’s just starting.

“I love the fact that we’ve had almost a month to prepare for these races. I have flourished in training,” said Shiffrin, who won both her races in the team event Tuesday as the Americans were eliminated in the quarterfinals. “I’m dialing in my technique and my tactics as much as I can. When I was younger, 10, 11, 12 . I normally took a three-to-four-week break between races in the middle of the season.

“I really ramped up the volume in my training. I’d like to think I have the capability to win two gold medals.”

Shiffrin enters the world championships as the defending slalom champion. She’s also got an Olympic gold medal, plus two World Cup slalom titles and 12 World Cup wins. She won a giant slalom at this season’s opening race in Soelden, Austria.

Shiffrin is trying to keep her focus on skiing and not let the moment overwhelm her.

“I like being the underdog and coming up to be like, ‘Gotcha!’ But I don’t think it makes a difference if I’m the defending champion or not,” she said. “Mostly, I have to put my best skiing out there and not think about it. There’s a lot of thinking going on . but I just need to not think.”

At the beginning of the season, she considered adding speed disciplines to her race repertoire. But Shiffrin decided to stick to the technical events at this competition.

“I was hoping that getting more comfortable with speed, I might set myself up to race at world championships, but I was maybe being a little arrogant,” said Shiffrin, who decided against racing the Alpine combined, which includes a downhill and slalom. “Sometimes you need a little bit of a wakeup call.”

Following her giant slalom win in October, Shiffrin went through what she referred to as “an equipment testing extravaganza.” She struggled to reach the podium, finishing between fourth and 11th. In the last few weeks, she’s found her stride and the “perfect setup.” She’s had top-three finishes in her last four World Cup races, including two victories.

“It feels so free right now,” she said. “The past few weeks of training have been spectacular. I’m more of a weathered ski racer coming into these world championships. It’s the exact position I want to be in.”

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