Mikaela Shiffrin clicked into her downhill skis for the first time since early December 2021 Saturday, taking a competitive approach to the first of three women’s downhill training sessions at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
Shiffrin descended the Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center’s “Rock” speed course in 1:34.80, the ninth-fastest time of the session.
One day earlier, she finished in the same position in the women’s super-G, the first of her Olympic career. Following that event, Shiffrin said that she and her coaches would use all three training sessions Saturday through Monday to decide if she would enter the women’s downhill on February 15.
She expressed cautious optimism on that front after Saturday’s run. “Everything felt really solid and I was able to move in and out of my tuck freely,” she told NBC’s Todd Lewis at the finish area. “The biggest thing is if over the next few days I can continue to improve on my tactics.”
Shiffrin said the number one factor in her decision will be the speed she’s able to find the course. “If I can sort of keep up, then I would love to do the downhill. It’s just a really fun event,” she said.
Barring a change of plans, Shiffrin will take on The Rock course at least once in Olympic competition, in the downhill portion of the women’s combined event on February 17. She is the defending Olympic silver medalist in the combined, which also includes a slalom run.
The combined represents Shiffrin’s best remaining chance at an individual medal at the 2022 Winter Games after a ninth place in the super-G and two shocking DNFs in the giant slalom and slalom, her two strongest events.
Shiffrin said she’s continuing to build back her confidence after the disappointing start to her Games. “I don’t really have a whole lot of belief… I don’t believe it’s going to work and I don’t believe that I can do it,” she said candidly, but added that belief “is not part of the equation” as she approaches the remainder of her Olympic schedule.