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Shiffrin Looks Ahead to 2021-22

By Megan Harrod
March, 31 2021
Shiffrin Looks Ahead to 2021-22
Two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Mikaela Shiffrin reflects on her 2020-21 season. (AFP via Getty Images - Andreas Solaro)

Following what was possibly the most memorable and grit-filled season of her career, two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Mikaela Shiffrin stayed in Europe to test equipment in Austria with Atomic immediately following World Cup Finals—a vital opportunity she missed out on after the 2020 season ended abruptly. It was time to get back to work, and Shiffrin is more motivated than ever before. 

Of course, this is something her competitors should be a bit concerned about because despite the tragic year she endured compounded with COVID setbacks, and only one-third of her normal preparation heading into the season, Shiffrin still walked away with 10 podiums in 16 FIS Ski World Cup starts, including three victories, four World Championship medals and records to boot. And yet, fans and the media speculated that the Shiffrin of the past was no longer. 

Mikaela Shiffrin 2020-21 Stats:

  • 10 podiums in 16 FIS Ski World Cup starts, including three victories (worst finish sixth)
  • Surpassed legend Marcel Hirscher's 67 career victories and ending the season with 69 World Cup victories—third on the all-time World Cup win list behind former teammate Lindsey Vonn (82), and Swede Ingemar Stenmark (86) 
  • Second in the world in the giant slalom and slalom standings, and fourth in the overall standings 
  • Leader on the World Cup circuit for average World Cup points per race (67.2 points over Swiss Lara Gut's 57.1 points in second) 
  • Snagged her 44th career World Cup slalom victory, breaking the women's record for most wins in a single discipline (Stenmark holds the record with 46 in giant slalom)
  • Four world championships medals at Cortina 2021 (career-best world champs)
  • First skiermale or femaleto win four medals at the world championships in 14 years
  • Tied with Sweden's Anja Paerson for the most World Championships medals by a woman in the modern era (11)
  • Most decorated American alpine skier in World Championships history (11 medals)
  • Most World Championship gold medals for American alpine skier (6 gold)
  • First American winner of the women’s combined since Tamara McKinney won it in 1989 at the worlds in Vail
  • Lara Gut-Behrami beat Mikaela Shiffrin in giant slalom by 0.02 sec, the smallest margin of victory in a giant slalom in world championship history

For anyone else, these numbers would have been an absolute dream, but Shiffrin has shown the world what it's like to be on top so consistently that her 2020-21 results were met with criticism. For Shiffrin, though, not returning to the sport she loved so much after all that occurred in the last 14 months was a very real consideration. Taking that into account, her results deserve to be applauded over and over, and over again. Shiffrin caught up with The New York Time's Bill Pennington after the season to talk shop and make sure people know that she's still very much here, and she's still doing it.

The article reads, 

“It’s true it wasn’t as good a year as I’ve had in the past,” she said, adding that many people around the world, not just ski racers, could say the same thing about the previous 12 months. “But when I look back at this season I’ll be proud. I didn’t even know if there was going to be a World Cup or if I was emotionally ready for it. Then I was injured as the racing was starting, and in bed and not training. I felt like I was playing catch-up.”

Ultimately, her 300-day layoff and atypical results have provided Shiffrin with something significant as the 2022 Beijing Olympics approach: new incentive.

“I’m motivated from what was lacking this year,” Shiffrin, 26, said. “There’s some missing pieces. That’s one of my biggest goals — to get those back.”

So, spending extra time in Europe to equipment test was a no-brainer for the more-motivated-than-ever Shiffrin, who tested both boots and dozens of pairs of skis with Atomic in Kühtai, Austria. What is perhaps most motivating for Shiffrin is the level of depth and consistency across the Land Rover U.S. Alpine Ski Team. She noted that the energy throughout the Team has been better than she's ever experienced in her career. 

Shiffrin is encouraged that the focus on American Olympic ski racing prospects will be more diffuse than it was in 2018, when attention was reserved almost exclusively for her and the now-retired Vonn. Several of Shiffrin’s American teammates had breakout performances this winter, including Paula Moltzan, 26, who placed in the top 10 of the last three World Cup slalom races of the season. Moltzan’s teammate, Nina O’Brien, 23, finished 17th in the season-long giant slalom standings.

In December, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, the son of the 1972 Olympic Alpine gold medalist Barbara Cochran, became the first American man to win a World Cup super-G in 15 years.

“The team has shown a level of depth and consistency,” Shiffrin said, “that I haven’t experienced in my career.”

The 2021-22 season will undoubtedly give fans a lot to get excited about, as the Team had the strongest collective result in years heading into the Olympic season. 

Read the Full New York Times Article