Given his momentous and title-deciding performance at high speed in the French Alps, the question is inevitable: should Mikaela Shiffrin incorporate more sprint racing into next season’s programme?
Shiffrin’s trainer Mike Day on the possibility: “It’s all on the table.”
Shiffrin’s masterful performances in the downhill and super-G races at the World Cup finals in Courchevel – an unexpected victory and a timely second place – secured his fourth career World Cup title in resounding fashion and unlikely.
His dominant display in France begs the question: Should Shiffrin fit more sprints into next season’s schedule?
Shiffrin finished on the podium in five of ten sprint races last season, including a confidence-boosting second-place finish in a Lenzerheide super-G. It was an inspiring display of racing after the tough and grueling Beijing Olympics. She kept that momentum going and eventually edged out Petra Vlhova by 184 points to claim her fourth Crystal Globe overall. Obviously, the 485 points won in the speed events were crucial.
In fact, Shiffrin’s 485 points over ten sprints during the 2021-22 World Cup season was the highest total points percentage, 32.5%, of his four overall titles. By comparison, she scored 529 points in the sprint events in 2018-’19. However, that was only 24% of his grand total of 2,204 points that season.
Numbers, performance and the “wow factor” are compelling reasons why the 27-year-old, 74-time world champion should add more speed to her repertoire.
Despite his breakthrough performance in the downhill and super-G season finale in Courchevel, delivered in a country renowned for its wonderful baguettes, Shiffrin says tech events will most likely remain his bread and butter.
“I haven’t really focused on speed this year, but it’s worked really well for the last few races and it was just awesome,” Shiffrin said. Ski racing media shortly after receiving his fourth overall Crystal Globe in Méribel, France. “Of course it’s always fun to win, but I normally find more consistency in technique and super-G, but the downhill is entirely separate and takes so long.”
“It’s hard to say, but my instinct or tendency would actually be to work a bit more with my GS and the slalom because I was excelling more in speed in those last races of the season,” she added. .
Shiffrin and Kilde put their heads together
Ahead of his decisive downhill victory in Courchevel on March 16 – his first win in the discipline since January 2020 and one of three in his career – Shiffrin chatted with boyfriend Aleksander Aamodt Kilde about the new downhill track “Eclipse”. . While chasing another overall title, the Norwegian sprint specialist was on the verge of claiming her first downhill title.
“We tried to analyze it together – I told her not to be happy with the speed she has because it’s a course where you can really tighten the line and be smart in places because she’s the best female skier in the world,” Kilde said, shortly after Shiffrin clocked the best time in practice run 2. “It’s fun to watch her perform the way I want to,” said -he adds.
“He’s great at analyzing skiing at all levels, but obviously in speed he’s the best, the best, and it’s amazing to watch him, to talk about him and I’m learning so much,” Shiffrin told About Kilde.
Having Kilde in his corner seems like a compelling argument that Shiffrin should fight in more runs when the bell rings next season.
“It’s always different talking about it and then doing it – I was able to do it this week in France, but that’s not always the case,” Shiffrin says of downhill success.
Comments about Brignon
Federica Brignone, who finished third overall this season, says Mikaela should do what is right for her. However, the Italian also believes her downhill potential remains untapped.
“She could gain a lot more speed,” said Brignone. “Mikaela has the perfect technique, she has the speed and obviously isn’t afraid to win, but she has to do what’s best for her and I think she has to have fun.”
Shiffrin’s trainer Mike Day offers insight
Asked about Mikaela’s stellar finish in her title-winning season, her coach of six, Mike Day, praises her resilience and says her performance was the “definition of a true champion”.
“To see how she came back from the experience in China to immediately get back on the super-G podium in Lenzerheide, ski some reasonable technical races and then do what she did here (in France) in the sprint races was just awesome,” Day said Ski racing media.
Asked if more sprints are likely to be part of Mikaela’s program next season, Day replies that anything is possible.
“I love it – I find it a lot of fun. It’s fun to do well at speed, but it’s no fun when it’s scary and when you don’t feel comfortable going fast” , said Shiffrin.
“It’s all on the table right now – we like to go back to places where we’ve been in speed from a comfort and experience level, so we need to target the leads she’s seen and then introduce some. news that makes sense,” Day said.
In recent seasons, Shiffrin has favored runs and stops on the super-G tour at Lake Louise, St. Moritz and Cortina, all venues where she has thrived. Naturally, downhill races require time-consuming commitments of three to four days when you factor in the necessary practice runs.
“I would love to see her speed more regularly, but it takes away from her preparation for other events, so it’s all a trade off,” Day said.
The need for speed
Whether Shiffrin and his team choose to put more emphasis on downhill and super-G racing in the future remains to be seen. However, the highly confident athlete knows that her incredible ability to produce quick results with minimal preparation is a powerful asset she can play when the chips drop.
The dominant American skier adds: “It’s wonderful to know that I have a good rhythm in the speed events.
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