By Rory Carroll
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Mikaela Shiffrin is rested and ready to bounce back from the uncharacteristic slump that marked her lead up to the Pyeongchang Olympics, where she is a favorite to win multiple medals in alpine skiing.
The 22-year-old slalom gold medalist from Sochi has racked up 10 World Cup victories this season but has managed to reach the podium just once in her last six races, a disappointing dip she attributed to fatigue.
“I’m feeling much better, much more like myself,” a relaxed Shiffrin told reporters on Saturday.
“In Lenzerheide I was emotional and crying and frustrated and not really myself so that was a sign to me that I was just a little bit too tired,” she said of her final giant slalom World Cup race before the Games, where she finished seventh.
“I feel much, much better now and I’m excited.”
Shiffrin, who is known for her work ethic, said that mental fatigue had also affected her and she had seen a sports psychologist to help with anxiety.
“I’ve gotten back to my roots in skiing and reminded myself I’m not here just for wins but I’m here because I love the sport,” she said.
“The thing that gives me the most satisfaction is the skiing part of it.”
A technical skiing prodigy who has also shown in recent years that she can win in speed events, Shiffrin said she will compete in slalom and giant slalom and will leave decisions about super-G, downhill and the combined for later.
Shiffrin’s dominance on the World Cup circuit has enthusiasts thinking she could become the “Winter Games Michael Phelps,” the American swimmer who holds the all-time record of 23 gold medals, a comparison she was quick to dismiss.
“You’re crazy,” a flabbergasted Shiffrin said when asked about the comparison.
“He has what, 23 medals? I know it’s a comparison between sports and I don’t think there’s a sport in the Winter Olympics where you can even win 23 medals across three or four Olympics.
“I could never imagine myself even in the same sentence as Michael Phelps.
“It’s extremely flattering but it’s apples and oranges.”
(Editing by Greg Stutchbury)