Mikaela Shiffrin’s Gold Rush Begins With a Bang – New York Times
Shiffrin also indicated on Thursday that she was planning to race in a fourth event next week, the women’s downhill. Although Eileen Shiffrin, Mikaela’s mother and one of her coaches, said her daughter would not enter a fifth event, the women’s super-G on Saturday.
Shiffrin’s giant slalom victory completes a portion of a four-year journey to transform herself into an elite racer in every Alpine event. But the first of the events she had to conquer was the giant slalom, a speedier and more changeable race than the slalom.
As Shiffrin said Thursday: “I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with giant slalom. It’s been a fight sometimes.”
Only months after the 2014 Sochi Games, Shiffrin began a dedicated training program to improve in the event.
As a high schooler then, she had once been among the best junior skiers in the world at giant slalom. But as she became a professional, she found more success in slalom and spent more time on it. Her giant slalom results, not surprisingly, lagged.
Still, in the summer of 2014, Shiffrin began to study videotape of her best giant slalom runs, going all the way back to her days as an amateur. Alone in a dark room, an Olympic champion was taking the unusual step of scrutinizing her technique as a young teen.
“The clues to improvement aren’t always in the places you expect,” Shiffrin said in an interview last year, recalling the summer of 2014.
Shiffrin had another strategy to make the leap from being just a competitive World Cup giant slalom skier to one of the world’s best. She decided to spend hours quizzing Ligety, the American skier and defending Olympic giant slalom champion who had single-handedly revolutionized giant slalom technique between 2012 and 2013.
In the fall of 2014, Shiffrin trained with Ligety in Colorado, not far from her home outside Vail. Afterward, they would watch videotape of that day’s training for an hour to 90 minutes.
“I remember that Mikaela would ask me about 20 questions in every 15-minute span,” Ligety said late last year. “When we’d be done, I’d say, ‘What else do you want to know?’”
“And she’d answer: ‘Everything else.’”
In October that year, Shiffrin won her first World Cup giant slalom. Two months later, she had the first of six straight top 10 finishes in the event and by the winter of 2016-17, she was rarely out of the top five in any giant slalom. This season, she has won two giant slalom races and been second in another.
But last month, she fell in her last giant slalom race and many in the ski racing community wondered if Shiffrin’s zeal to branch out to other events had left her distracted. Instead, she was convinced she needed to go back and work on the more basic techniques that she had studied and learned in the years since 2014.
In the two weeks since her tumble in her last giant slalom last month, she sequestered with her team of coaches and her mother. She rested some days and trained by herself in others.