BEIJING – Mikaela Shiffrin confirmed that she will, indeed, race a downhill at the Winter Olympics for the first time Tuesday. And she says she is changing how she thinks about what is at stake as she prepares for her fourth event in Beijing.
“It’ll be really nice to race tomorrow. But you don’t really come to the Olympics to feel nice,” Shiffrin said after finishing Monday’s second training session on the course known as The Rock at the Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center with the 15th-fastest time among the women who didn’t miss a gate. “It’s going to be intense and a little bit of nerves, for sure.”
One unexpected bit of help, she said, arrived Sunday, when what was supposed to be another training session was called off because of heavy snow.
Shiffrin said it was her only day off in a span of about 2½ weeks.
“It was good to get some rest, some recovery, a little bit of kind of a strength session in and get the muscle priming,” she said.
The two-time gold medalist in Alpine skiing did not finish her opening runs in either of her initial two events, the two-leg giant slalom and slalom, before coming in ninth in the super-G, another race she hadn’t previously entered at an Olympics.
As someone who specialized in the technical disciplines of slalom and giant slalom, the speed events of downhill and super-G are still new and works-in-progress for Shiffrin.
She has 47 World Cup victories in slalom — more than any other person in any race — and 14 in giant slalom, with four in super-G and two in downhill.
And although she said, “There’s always some part of you that’s thinking, ‘Maybe there’s a chance,’” when it comes to getting a top-three result Tuesday, Shiffrin gave some fresh insight into her mindset.
“I’m not focusing on the medal anymore. It’s just trying to do my best execution every day. Anyway, that’s my best shot at a medal. So it’s a little bit of maybe a paradox ... that your best chance to have that performance is to stop thinking about the performance and to focus on what you’re doing in that moment,” the 26-year-old Shiffrin said. “So I’m just trying to be present in the moment, especially with the downhill.”
Beyond that, this time spent doing that event figures to help her in Thursday’s Alpine combined, which adds the times from one downhill run and one slalom run. She took home a silver in combined at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics.
The downhill champion four years ago, Italy's Sofia Goggia, was fourth-fastest Monday behind leader Joana Haehlen of Switzerland and figures she will be able to contend for a top finish despite badly injuring her left knee and leg in a crash during a super-G three weeks ago.
“I didn’t think about the leg at all,” Goggia said, “and I think that was evident.”
___ AP Sports Writer Andrew Dampf contributed to this report.
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