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Talk about being on a career fast track: Mikaela Shiffrin won the coveted Overall World Cup title at the Audi FIS Ski World Cup Finals in Aspen on Sunday, a few days after celebrating her 22 birthday. Shiffrin now joins an exclusive club of American skiers who have won the overall crystal globe, all names that any U.S. race fan will recognize: Tamara McKinney, Phil Mahre, Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn, who was the most recent American overall champion in 2012.
To make the victory even sweeter, Shiffrin won the top honor in front of cheering crowds in her home state of Colorado. “It has been something I’ve dreamed about,” Shiffrin said. “It still doesn’t feel real, though. It’s like you’re constantly chasing this dream and as soon as you get it, you realize it’s still so far away.”
Shiffrin did admit that the World Cup Finals had some down moments for her on the way to the overall title, as she finished second in the slalom—the fourth time in five years she has earned a globe in her strongest discipline—and a disappointing sixth in the giant slalom. “I’m not very satisfied. I felt like I had some really good turns, but I didn’t take enough aggression when I really needed it,” Shiffrin said regarding her giant slalom finish. “It’s a bit of a bummer, but it’s good motivation for next year.”
Before she tackles next year, she needs to process the end of her long and grueling, if also wildly successful, current season. “It’s sort of sad that it’s over,” Shiffrin said. “There are so many emotional roller coasters that you just want to take a nap for three days straight.”
After napping, it’s all about next year’s Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. Shiffrin said she plans to expand her efforts in the Games. “My goal right now is to race in speed at the Olympics. But it’s really challenging,” she said. “I raced a few super G racers this year and two downhills and even that was very tiring. I still focused on my main events, but as I get older and more confident and stronger, then I can add more speed.”
Shiffrin has been on the fast track for a while, as she was the first American woman to win two races before she turned 18. And now at 22, Shiffrin shows an ability beyond her years to focus on the challenges ahead. “I was thinking about next year at the beginning of this year,” she said.