KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia American skier Mikaela Shiffrin travels the world with her journals, filling them with thoughts about her sport and her life.
A good chunk of what the 18-year-old has put on paper lately is related to preparing for her Olympic debut in the giant slalom today, when she planned to contend for a medal, and the slalom Friday, when she will be an overwhelming favorite.
She was probably 13 when she started taking notes every day on what was good about the day, what was bad, things to keep in mind with her skiing, Shiffrins mother, Eileen, said after accompanying Mikaela for practice on a fog-filled hill Monday. She jots down things and reviews it.
Clearly, the approach works.
After attending a skiing academy in Vermont, Shiffrin made her World Cup debut in March 2011, two days before her 16th birthday. Nine months later, in only her eighth career race, she earned her first top-three finish. When she was 17, Shiffrin won a World Cup race for the first time. She comes to the Sochi Olympics as the reigning world champion and World Cup champion in the slalom.
The skier Shiffrin, who has relatives in Malone, is often compared to, four-time overall World Cup champion and two-time Olympic medalist Lindsey Vonn, is sidelined after recent knee surgery. So if she ends up with a medal or two this week, and Shiffrin could be a breakout star of the Sochi Games.
We all know what shes done in the past, U.S. Alpine director Patrick Riml said, and its incredible.
All along, Shiffrins been taking notes.
Thinking of things that I want to say and things I want to feel when Im in the starting gate, explained Shiffrin, who is based in Eagle-Vail, Colo. Im sure on race day, theres going to be something that goes differently, and the trick is to be able to see that and expect it and move forward.
Shes envisioned herself winning a gold medal.
Shes also pictured a bronze.
And shes even seen in her minds eye what a crash would look like, so as to figure out how to avoid that.
It takes a lot of courage to ... be able to see that in your head and then brush it away on race day, know that youve been through every scenario in your head, but treated it as if its a brand new thing, Shiffrin said. So right now, I think Im the best prepared I could possibly be.
No one seems to doubt that.
She will handle the pressure really good, said Swedens Maria Pietilae-Holmner, who is second in the World Cup giant slalom standings. Shes still young, shes not thinking too much, and I think she will for sure take one medal, at least.
Shiffrin herself and her mother are thinking about multiple medals.
Both note that Shiffrin had two podium finishes in the giant slalom this season.
She has really high expectations for the GS. She definitely wants to medal in the GS, and I think she has the ability to, for sure, said Eileen, who is staying with her daughter in the hotel hosting the U.S. ski team. She does have high expectations. Shes been working really hard on her skiing, and shes going to go in and hammer, put the hammer down, and hope for the best. Shes really excited. Were all really excited. We just hope we dont have any bad luck.
Plenty of people around Shiffrin, from her mother to U.S. coaches, say its important to treat the Winter Games just like any other race.