By Pat Graham/AP
Keeping up with Mikaela Shiffrin’s offseason endeavors may be just as challenging as catching up to her in a ski race.
She’s constantly full speed ahead.
The all-time winningest World Cup ski racer attended a Taylor Swift concert, visited a camp where a lodge was named after her, picked up an award at the ESPYs, stopped by to see her boyfriend/fellow ski racer Aleksander Aamodt Kilde in Norway and wrote an article for Time on singer Noah Kahan.
On the training front, Shiffrin immersed herself in trail running, adapted to a coaching change and adopted a new attitude — “relaxed and flowy,” she called it — into her racing. The five-time World Cup overall winner has come to realize it's OK to build throughout a season and that she doesn’t need to be at her elite best when the season kicks off Saturday with a giant slalom race in Soelden, Austria.
“I’m trying to take a little bit more of an approach of giving myself time to build into my best form,” the 28-year-old Shiffrin said Thursday in a Zoom call. “If I feel amazing on Saturday, I’ll take it. I’m not going to complain about that."
One of the questions hovering around Shiffrin was motivation. More specifically, how does she find another source of inspiration after breaking Ingemar Stenmark's longtime World Cup wins record last season. Shiffrin’s current total stands at 88 and counting (Stenmark had 86).
Not even close to an issue, Shiffrin maintained. Her motivation will be as strong as ever in pursuing more World Cup overall titles. The women’s record is six by Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria.
“So that motivation doesn’t change because it just kind of resets every year,” said Shiffrin, who's from Colorado. “That’s where my head’s at.”
To take her training to another level, Shiffrin incorporated more trail running. It helped her report for training camp in arguably the best shape of her life. But then food poisoning hit her while training in Chile. And then when she got back home she caught a bug she couldn't shake. It zapped her strength.
“I feel like I'm in a good place now,” Shiffrin said.
She’s working with a new coach, too, in Karin Harjo, who replaces her longtime coach Mike Day. Shiffrin's mom, Eileen, still works with her as well.
“Karin’s transitioning really quite seamlessly into the team,” Shiffrin said. “I’m really excited to move forward with Karin leading the charge.”
Shiffrin made sure to praise Day, too: "I owe so much of the career that I’ve had to him and the work that he’s done.”
The plan is for Shiffrin to try to add more speed races — super-Gs in particular — this season. But that's all schedule and health willing, of course.
“There’s not really a lot more racing that I can physically do,” Shiffrin said. “But there’s a little bit more.”
There's also not a lot more she could've crammed into her offseason. She did a little bit of everything.
Shiffrin and her U.S. ski team friends caught a Swift show together. Their bonding time included, “jumping up and down for 3 1/2 hours, shouting ‘Love Story’ and all of that,” Shiffrin said with a laugh.
Shiffrin also spent quite a bit of time with Kilde, too, even scripting a dance together to ABBA's “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” while standing on the slopes in ski racing attire. Shiffrin also picked up the best female sports athlete award at the ESPY awards. That's not all — she had a lodge named after her at Camp Arrow Wood in Massachusetts. She said her lodge is right next to the one named for basketball Hall of Famer Michael Jordan.
“The offseason was really good,” Shiffrin said. “Mostly a lot of travel and some really, really fun events.”
Now, it’s back to work. Her focus in Saturday's GS is more about squeezing in some valuable time on a race course than where she might finish.
“This first race, it’s basically just going to be an opportunity to get the best training that we have access to because it’s the only hill that’s actually properly prepared for ski racing right now,” Shiffrin said.
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