A new generation of racers will emerge to replace departing stars Lindsey Vonn and Aksel Lund Svindal but Mikaela Shiffrin does not feel like the new face of skiing - just yet.
At 23, Shiffrin already looks set to break most of the major records in alpine skiing as she takes on the mantle as the leading women's skier on the World Cup circuit following the retirement of 34-year-old U.S. compatriot Vonn. Shiffrin does not have the celebrity presence just yet of Vonn. She may not have a choice soon even though she has already shown she intends to follow her own path.
Several leading skiers past and present believe she can sweep the board at major championships. This season she has already added the super-g speed discipline to her technical repertoire, as she demonstrated with a medal last week.
Instead of competing in the alpine combined event in Are, where she would have been a favorite to win, she went training in Norway to be fully prepared for her assaults on Thursday's giant slalom and Saturday's slalom titles.
Victories would give her seven world championship golds and a record fourth successive slalom title, but she says records and statistics "dehumanize" the sport and she takes nothing granted. "There is no such thing as an easy win," she posted on Instagram at the weekend.
"I don't feel like I'm the face of skiing," she said on her return to Are. "In my own head, I'm thinking about like what am I going to have for lunch." But Shiffrin does seem to accept that a new stage of her career is starting as the vanguard of what will be a new generation of racers to take the roles of Vonn, Svindal and others. And that might call for more of the characteristics which made Vonn such an ambassador for the sport for well over a decade. "I would like to believe that just being a really kind person and a good athlete and having success in the sport is enough to promote it, but it's not really," she said.
"There needs to be some drama, some excitement, some personalities. Maybe I am going into that, but right now I am trying as hard as I can to balance my own schedule and ski as well as I can because my big goal is not to be dramatic, it's to be in the start gate ready to win."
The season has already been a huge success with 13 World Cup wins, taking her tally to 56. Record holder Ingemar Stenmark says he thinks she will easily beat his mark of 86 and be the first skier to go above 100.
Shiffrin, already showing maturity beyond her years, also says she feels she has become mentally much stronger this season. "This year has been a turning point for me," she said. "I wouldn't say I am the most self-confident person out there, but I feel comfortable in my own skin and I certainly feel comfortable on my skis.
"I am naturally a fairly introverted personality but I do think that ski racing has helped me find some balance between being able to put myself out there and not being afraid to fall and not being afraid to fail." She has, she says, become better at dealing with people's expectations and the fact that her own is growing. "The last couple of years I definitely have paid too much attention to all the expectations of other people, and this year it has been one of my goals to see that, to hear it, to understand it, and then let it go," she said.
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