Mikaela Shiffrin left her mark in Sochi, not only in winning the slalom, but also in a media center the next day when she said she dreamed of winning five gold medals at the 2018 Olympics.
Shiffrin regretted blurting out that lofty vision six weeks later, not that she didn’t think she could do it, but because it became “a quote” that media ran with.
“I was on a gold-medal high there,” Shiffrin joked at the Best of U.S. Awards in Washington on Wednesday. “Whoops, shouldn’t have said that. … Of course, that’s everybody’s dream. You go to the Olympics to bring home gold, right?”
Shiffrin, 19 and the youngest Olympic slalom champion ever, received encouragement from President Barack Obama at the White House on Thursday. Obama mentioned Shiffrin’s five-gold-medal dream in an address to a room full of Olympians, Paralympians … and more media.
“I’ve just got three words of advice,” Obama directed toward Shiffrin. “Go for it.”
If it indeed becomes a “drive for five” — a term thrown around when the disgraced Marion Jones entered five track and field events in Sydney 2000 — Shiffrin’s quest might have begun already.
The youngest Olympic women’s slalom champion ever trained super-G on the 2015 World Championships course last week. Shiffrin is the world’s best slalom skier and among the 10 best in giant slalom but has never raced a downhill, super combined or super-G in a World Cup.
She met last week with U.S. Ski Team coach Roland Pfeifer, who has coached Shiffrin in slalom and giant slalom. The U.S. is bringing in a new speed events coach, whom Shiffrin said she has yet to meet.
Pfeifer stressed comfort in their discussion about adding super-G. There is no set plan on how much super-G she will race next season.
“It’s anywhere from nothing to everything,” said Shiffrin, who marveled at marble staircases and Georgian architecture while touring the White House on Thursday. “When you’re in the starting gate, I want you to really feel like you can charge that course [Pfeifer said]. Even if you don’t have experience, even if it’s icy. It’s just getting to the point where I have some experience on super-G skis, on hard courses, and then I should be comfortable.”
The biggest advice Shiffrin has received? Patience.
“Not to rush it because it’s really hard to be a four-event skier [downhill, super-G, giant slalom, slalom],” Shiffrin said. “Slalom and GS are the ones you have to train the most. If you’re doing speed, you don’t get to train them [slalom and giant slalom]. It’s mostly about pacing myself. Do a few super-Gs, and then just start learning downhill.”
Time is on her side. Shiffrin has nearly four years to round into the all-around form she desires if the Olympics are the big goal.
The world’s best all-event skiers the last two seasons, Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Tina Maze, have said they will not ski at the next Olympics.
It’s unknown if Lindsey Vonn, who is better in speed events, will ski any giant slalom or slalom after coming back from her knee surgeries. Or if she will be able to make it to her fourth Olympics in 2018.
World Cup overall winner Anna Fenninger, a 24-year-old Austrian, is at the top right now, but she does not race slalom.
“Sometimes I just want to jump into super-G because I’m like, ‘I can do that,’ but then I take a step back, especially after I train super-G,” Shiffrin said. “And I then think about the top speed girls and how good they are. That’s still a little ways away. I need a lot of practice.”
She’ll get it, even in the offseason. Shiffrin’s slated for another training camp in May, and most skiers head to Chile in August or September for more work before the World Cup schedule starts in October.
After four more seasons of World Cup experience, perhaps media will run with this stat before Pyeongchang 2018: the most medals won by a single Alpine skier at one Olympics is four.
“Hopefully I have a shot at as many gold medals as I can get,” Shiffrin said. “Who knows if I’ll actually get them, but as long as I give myself a chance, then I’m happy.”