BEAVER CREEK, Colorado (Reuters) - Still a teenager with two alpine ski world championship slalom titles and an Olympic gold medal, American Mikaela Shiffrin seems to have perfected everything about her race, except how to celebrate a victory.
The 19-year-old put on a slalom showcase on the sun-kissed Beaver Creek slopes on Saturday, taking the lead after the opening leg then turning on the after-burners in the second to retain her slalom crown in front of a wildly appreciative crowd.
But in the finish area as the packed grandstand stood and cheered her breath-taking charge, Shiffrin stood stoically unmoved, lost in the excitement she had created.
“I’m kind of a dork and I don’t want to show that side of myself,” laughed Shiffrin, now at ease in her post-race news conference. ‘I’m not that great at showing my emotions.
“I put a ton of energy out there, especially that last third of the course. I came away with the win but I had no energy at the finish. I feel like the best racers in history have the most epic finish celebrations.
“I watch these celebrations and I think how cool would it be if I won this and did something so epic everyone starts crying. I’ll work on it.”
Shiffrin may have to put some extra thought into coming up with a signature celebration, since there are likely to be many more occasions for her to use one.
Not yet 20, she already has 21 World Cup podiums, including 12 wins, and has displayed the icy cool demeanor of a seasoned veteran oblivious to the pressure by taking naps on the snow between runs, as she did on Saturday.
Despite her tender years, Shiffrin has refined her ability to deliver on the sport’s biggest stages and at Beaver Creek she became the first women’s skier to capture two world titles before turning 20 since Erika Hess in 1982.
“At some point in your career, it just doesn’t go the way you want it,” explained Shiffrin, who has yet to fully experience one of those moments. “I’ve been really lucky so far at how well all these big events have been going in slalom.
“Pressure is what you make it and if you prepare hard enough, you prepare well enough, no matter how much pressure you feel you can still perform.
“It’s not about choking then, it is just about how well you can ski. There is always pressure, sometimes you just feel it more than others.”
Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes