EAGLE-VAIL — Mikaela Shiffrin is a long way from home; she hasn’t been on U.S. soil since November.
It’s a small price to pay in her pursuit of 16 total wins in 24 races (including world championships) — and 20 podiums. At the world championships in Are, Sweden, Shiffrin won two gold medals — Norway and Switzerland as teams won two apiece; Austria won one.
When asked on a conference call with journalists from around the country Thursday if her mind ever wanders back home to Eagle-Vail with a few weeks remaining in the season, Shiffrin wasted no time speaking about home.
“Oh my gosh — pretty much 100 percent of my thoughts are of back home,” she said. “This is the point in the season that’s the final push. You can taste it. Coming home is literally like a taste that’s on the tip of your tongue and you just want to get there,” she said after answering questions about her health, schedule and if she’s still having fun (she is). “But we still have a job to do. There’s still work to do. I cannot wait to get home, but kind of have to get through this final push and then it will be as sweet as can be.”
Before Shiffrin returns to Eagle-Vail (where she usually spends a few days training at Beaver Creek right after the season ends), she will celebrate her 24th birthday in the midst of the World Cup Finals in Andorra — sort of.
“Honestly, my birthday is like the records — I really don’t ever think about it,” Shiffrin said.
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“I really don’t ever think about my birthday to the point that I forgot my boyfriend’s birthday. It was during Cortina and I completely forgot it was his birthday. My excuse for that was I don’t care about my own birthday, so why would I care about yours? I don’t think he really appreciated that excuse.”
While she doesn’t have any big celebratory plans for her birthday, she is planning on staying in Barcelona for a couple of days after the World Cup Finals, “so that will be a nice little birthday present,” she said.
With another birthday, though, comes another year of the tax ski racing takes on racers, especially giant slalom.
“I know I’m only 23, but I definitely feel with each year my body is starting to complain to me,” she said.
There are 10 World Cup races left in the season before Shiffrin can come home to Eagle-Vail and get some R&R — Shiffrin probably will race in at least four of them.
“I’m really looking forward to once the season is over getting home and seeing my family and my brother,” she said. “Right now, I’m looking forward to these final races of the season.”
‘Expect nothing,’ take everything
Shiffrin credits much of her success this season to her team, equipment managers and supporting cast.
However, one of the keys to Shiffrin’s success — 57 career victories, fifth-most among men and women — is her amazingly strong mental approach to ski racing.
“When you don’t have expectations, it’s really easy to exceed them,” she said. “I don’t know what everybody else’s expectations were, but one of my big focuses over the last few seasons was trying to stop worrying what other people’s expectations are and appreciate that everybody has high expectations because my track record is good, and that’s a really good thing. But beyond that, don’t worry what other people are thinking. This whole season I’ve been trying to keep my expectations really low and just go into every race and expect nothing.”
That mentality has carried Shiffrin to a dominant season — she’s already secured her sixth slalom globe with more hardware likely on the way. However, Shiffrin doesn’t take time to think about dominating the field during the season or in start gates, rather she channels her killer instinct in the gym and in training in the summer months — “the kind of stuff you see in movies,” she said.
“Every time I stand in a starting gate, no matter what records I might be looking at, I focus on the skiing and focus on the turns because that’s the thing that leaves me the most satisfied.”