November 28, 2014

COPPER MOUNTAIN, Colo. (AP) Mikaela Shiffrin has hardly had time to catch her breath since the world last saw the vivacious teen bounding to the slalom title in breathtaking fashion - remember, she nearly fell - at the Sochi Olympics.

She's walked the red carpet at award ceremonies, taken online classes (she wants to be an environmental engineer when she grows up), been a fixture in the weight room (for more muscle definition) and sharpened her technique so she can accelerate her game plan.

More speed is next on the agenda for the 19-year-old technical specialist. Shiffrin will sprinkle in a few super-G races to her schedule this season.

All part of the gradual development of the young talent who's rapidly becoming the face of skiing - if she's not there already.

''It (notoriety) is starting to pick up a bit,'' said Shiffrin, who will race in a World Cup giant slalom and slalom this weekend in Aspen. ''At every training session, more people know who I am, maybe want a picture or an autograph. Otherwise, though, it's been pretty calm and enjoyable.''

Shiffrin got off to a roaring start this season, winning the opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, in October. Her first career win in that discipline this soon in the year was a little unexpected, considering she just started breaking in a new pair of GS skis a few months ago.

It has her thinking even grander thoughts, with possibly taking the starting line for a super-G race in, say, Val d'Isere, France, next month.

That's a big leap for the skier who's taken incremental steps in her growth. She feels ready, though, for super-G races that can reach speed around 70 mph.

''My coach and I decided that if my giant slalom is going in right direction - and hopefully based off how did at Soelden it is - we'd try to race some super-Gs this year,'' Shiffrin explained. ''I'm feeling much more comfortable on my skis now.''

Hasn't she always?

After all, she's been billed as the next big thing on the slopes for years, and lived up to that lofty reputation at every turn. With her win in Soelden, she became just the eighth female skier to win 10 or more World Cup races as a teenager. Austrian standout Annemarie Moser-Proell holds the record with 27 wins before turning 20.

Shiffrin doesn't turn 20 until March, so she has time to add to her total.

''I never really predicted how much success I was going to have. I never even tried to,'' Shiffrin said. ''I don't think it's something you can predict. I tried to work as hard as I could, to get my skiing where I thought it needed to be to race World Cup. Once I got to the level of World Cup, I wanted to win a World Cup. Once I won a World Cup, I wanted to win more.

''There's always a higher level to shoot for.''

Shiffrin has a little confession to make: She doesn't enjoy watching replays of her winning Olympic slalom run from last February.

Makes her too nervous, especially the part where about halfway through the second leg she briefly lost her balance. Her left ski rose too far off the snow and her chance at a gold medal in the event she's dominated for two years seemed about to slip away.

But she recovered. And later, wore the gold medal around her neck.

When she does interviews and it's shown to her, she tries to stay calm, but all she wants to do is shield her eyes from watching that near tumble.

''Even now, my heart is beating out of my chest. My toes are in my throat,'' she said. ''It's a really nervous feeling. Every time, it's like, `Why did I do that?'''

Shiffrin has that gold medal locked up and doesn't want to disclose the location because, ''they'd maybe go and steal it.''

But doesn't she want to show it off?

''Mine is not on display,'' said Shiffrin, who's looking forward to the world championships being held near her hometown of Eagle-Vail in February so she can sleep in her own bed. ''That would be pretentious.''

And no one would ever accuse her of being pretentious.

This summer has flown by for Shiffrin.

Sure, she's done some fun things - such as attending the ESPY Awards - but she spent most of her time honing her technique or in the gym working out. She wants to be stronger for the super-G races, since it's a longer and more grueling discipline. She's also cut fatty meats from her diet.

''We're trying to find the limit of what we can bring into ski racing,'' Shiffrin said.

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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
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Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
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Double Bogey (+2)