Mikaela Shiffrin laughs about dream of 5 golds, but Obama supports her

Mikaela Shiffrin
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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.”

What U.S. Olympians told President Obama

Diana Taurasi says 2024 Paris Olympics ‘on my radar’

Diana Taurasi
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Diana Taurasi said immediately after winning her fifth Olympic gold medal in Tokyo that she might try for a record sixth in Paris.

It’s still on her mind 17 months out of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“It’s something that it’s on my radar,” Taurasi told The Associated Press in a phone interview Tuesday after the first day of a USA Basketball training camp in Minnesota, her first national team activity since Tokyo. “I’m still competitive, still driven, still want to play, I still love being a part of USA Basketball.”

Taurasi will be 42 at the time of the Paris Games — older than any previous Olympic basketball player — but said if she’s healthy enough she’d like to give it a go.

“If the opportunity comes to play and be a part of it, it’s something I’ve always taken a lot of pride in,” said Taurasi, who shares the record of five Olympic basketball gold medals with the retired Sue Bird. “When you get to my age at this point in my career, you just try to win every day. Right now this is a good opportunity to be part of this team moving forward we’ll see what happens.”

She said she would have played at the FIBA World Cup last year in Australia, but had a quad strain that kept her out of the end of the WNBA season.

“I got hurt a little bit before. I had a good conversation with Coach (Cheryl) Reeve and (USA Basketball CEO Jim) Tooley. I felt like I hadn’t played enough basketball to be out there and help,” Taurasi said. “That’s the biggest thing with USA Basketball is being able to help the team win.”

Reeve said Monday that when she succeeded Dawn Staley as head coach a few months after Tokyo, she wasn’t sure whether Taurasi would play for the national team again. That was before her conversation with Taurasi.

“I look forward to having a chance to have her be around and be, as I told her, a great voice,” Reeve said. “Obviously, the competitive fire that she competes with is something that we all do well with.”

In Tokyo, Taurasi started all six games and averaged 18.8 minutes per game, sixth-most on the team (fewer than backup guard Chelsea Gray). Her 5.8 points per game were her fewest in her Olympic career, though she was dealing with a hip injury.

Taurasi is an unrestricted free agent although she is expected to return back to Phoenix where she’s spent her entire career since getting drafted No. 1 overall in 2003.

“Phoenix still has things they need to work out,” the WNBA’s all-time leading scorer said.

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Alexis Pinturault wins world championships combined; American in fourth

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France’s Alexis Pinturault won the world Alpine skiing championships combined at his home venue after defending world champion Marco Schwarz blew a lead in the final seconds of his slalom run.

Pinturault, a 31-year-old who hadn’t won a race in nearly two years (the longest drought of his distinguished career), prevailed by one tenth of a second over the Austrian Schwarz in Courchevel, France.

“I hope to enjoy it because it was pretty difficult some months ago,” Pinturault said.

Austrian Raphael Haaser took bronze in an event that combined times from a morning super-G run and an afternoon slalom run, one day after his older sister took bronze in the women’s combined.

River Radamus was fourth, a quarter of a second from becoming the first U.S. man to win an Alpine worlds medal since 2015. Radamus’ best event is the giant slalom, which is scheduled for Feb. 17 at worlds.

“It’s nice, but honestly, you don’t come to world championships hoping to get fourth,” Radamus said.

Five skiers finished within 2.98 seconds of the winner in an event that has been dropped from the annual World Cup schedule and is under review to remain on the Olympic program.

ALPINE WORLDS: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Pinturault had the fastest super-G run by six hundredths over Schwarz. Schwarz, a slightly better slalom skier than Pinturault, erased that deficit early in the slalom and had a three tenths lead at the last intermediate split.

He gave it all away about six gates from the finish, slamming on the brakes. Moments later, he crossed the finish line one tenth behind Pinturault, who reacted by pumping his fists in the air.

The Frenchman earned his first race victory since the March 2021 World Cup Finals giant slalom, where he clinched his first World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing. Last season, Pinturault went winless on the World Cup for the first time since he was a teenage rookie in 2011, plus went medal-less at the Olympics.

Pinturault, who grew up in Courchevel and now co-owns the family’s five-star Hotel Annapurna there, had retirement cross his mind in the offseason, according to Eurosport. He skipped a pre-worlds Sunday press conference due to illness.

Nonetheless, Pinturault was on the front page of French newspapers this week, including L’Equipe on Tuesday. In a sports cover story for Le Figaro, Pinturault said that, given the circumstances, it would be almost a “nice surprise” to go for a medal at these worlds.

Olympic champion Johannes Strolz of Austria skied out of the slalom after tying for 29th in the super-G.

Olympic silver and bronze medalists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway and Jack Crawford of Canada were among the speed specialists who did not start the slalom. They essentially used the event as a training run for Thursday’s super-G.

Worlds continue Wednesday with the women’s super-G, where Mikaela Shiffrin is a medal contender but not the favorite. She can tie the modern-era records for individual world championships gold medals (seven) and total medals (12).

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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