PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 13 (Reuters) - American Mikaela Shiffrin will enter the record books if she can win Wednesday’s Olympic women’s slalom event at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre.
The dominant figure in the technical events on the women’s World Cup circuit, in which she heads the overall standings with 10 wins, including five in slalom, the 22-year-old is a strong favourite.
Should she secure gold, she would become the first Alpine skier to successfully defend an Olympic slalom title, following her success in Sochi.
Shiffrin would also become the first American skier to win multiple gold medals in a single Alpine event.
Such has been Shiffrin’s domination of slalom — she has also won three World Championship crowns - a recent blip in her form, where she managed just one podium in her last six races, became a major debating point among followers of the sport.
But Shiffrin says she has arrived in Korea refreshed and ready for the challenge.
“I’m feeling much better, much more like myself,” she said on arrival in Pyeongchang, adding that after seeing a sports psychologist she has been able to re-focus.
“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.
But if Shiffrin isn’t at the top of her game on Wednesday there are no shortage of quality challengers ready to swoop for gold.
Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova won in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, in the last World Cup race before the Winter Games, and has been a skier to watch since her junior days.
Frida Hansdotter, 32, of Sweden is a consistent podium finisher, even if she only has four World Cup slalom wins to her name.
Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, who finished runner-up to Shiffrin in the 2017 World Championship, is another racer who could take advantage of any opportunity having become her country’s main hope following the injury to Laura Gut.
“Mikaela Shiffrin is hard to beat, she can get a medal in the games in every discipline,” said Holdener. “I just have to accept that. She is often in a different league”. (Reporting by Simon Evans; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)