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Straddling Shiffrin insists no Beijing Olympics deja vu

(AFP)

Mikaela Shiffrin insisted there was no feeling of deja vu of her disastrous experience at last year’s Beijing Olympics after she skied out of the slalom in a botched bid to defend her world combined title on Monday.

One of the main faces of the Winter Games in China, Shiffrin failed to finish the slalom, giant slalom and alpine combined — three events in which she had been a keen favourite.

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She also failed to get close to the podium in either the super-G or downhill.

That stumbling form has not continued on the World Cup circuit this season, however, with the 27-year-old American winning 11 races (including five slaloms) to come within one of Ingemar Stenmark’s overall World Cup record for victories (86).

There was a sense of disbelief among onlookers at the French resort of Meribel in Monday’s opening event of the biennial championships as a hard-charging Shiffrin straddled the penultimate gate in the slalom run of the combined, having been perfectly poised after the morning’s super-G.

That mistake was enough to hand Federica Brignone a deserved gold after the Italian set the fastest time in the super-G and backed that up superbly with the second-fastest slalom.

“I didn’t really think about that for myself, more for the people asking,” Shiffrin said of her Beijing experience.

“I’m not afraid if it happens again. What if I don’t finish every run?? Pfffff! What happened last year, I survived.”

Shiffrin boldly claimed that, if it came to it, she would be more than happy to exit Meribel without a medal given her stunning success on the World Cup circuit.

“I’ve had some pretty amazing races this season,” said Shiffrin, whose charge towards Stenmark’s record also saw her overtake now-retired compatriot Lindsey Vonn as holder of most women’s victories in the World Cup.

“I would take the season I’ve had with no medals at the world championships. If it’s either/or, then I’d take that, I’m happy with it.”

– ‘Heart on your sleeve’ –

But in the same breath, the ultra-competitive American vowed she would be not be just standing by, instead “pushing for medals because that’s what you do at a world champs”.

“You wear your heart on your sleeve and you go for it, I’m not afraid of the consequences as long as I have that (attacking) mentality, which I had today, so that’s good,” she said.

Shiffrin also dismissed concerns she might struggle for motivation at the world champs given her form on the day-in, day-out elite ski circuit.

“Sometimes you get the momentum and you just keep it going because it’s been so fun to ski. I love how I’m skiing,” she said.

“It’s almost easier to get motivated because every single day I enjoy getting out there and doing it.

“Unfortunately you also have to face the side of the sport where it doesn’t work, you don’t finish, everyone’s disappointed. That’s the negative side, or the sad side, but overall it’s been such an insane, amazing season.”

Next up for Shiffrin will be Wednesday’s super-G, followed by the giant slalom on February 16 and the slalom two days after that.

Topping the podium in any one of them would see Shiffrin equal Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swedish racer Anja Paerson, each of whom bagged seven individual world golds in their careers.

Luke PHILLIPS

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