'Surprise' is the operative word from the 44th FIS Alpine World Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, as the speed events wrap up. Going six for six, the Swiss, with a mix of first-time winners and typically top-10 finishers, are making other nations question their ability to turn the momentum around in the tech events—giant slalom and slalom—which start on February 16 and continue through the 19. One hurdle to clear for everyone will be Mikaela Shiffrin, who, with eight wins this season, will be attempting a three-peat as the women's slalom champion, and is a real medal threat in GS as well.
In addition to going for a record third back-to-back slalom World Championship title, when Shiffrin steps into the start house for both the GS and slalom, she will be in the unique position to potentially bring home a rare double gold.
Shiffrin, who is maturing in both age and skill, was reflective beyond her years about the possibility of a third slalom World Championship, her place in ski racing, life and paying it forward.
I'm really excited for the races here at the World Champs. I'm planning to compete in the GS and slalom. Part of my decision to not race [in the speed events] is to focus on the events that I can medal in. It's been an incredible season so far and I'm also really looking forward to the season-ending [World Cup events] at Squaw Valley and Aspen.
It's tough to say what has made the difference [in my skiing] this year. I'm constantly developing. I'm getting older and figuring things out and my skiing is getting stronger each season.
When I was injured last season in GS it made me more aware of the risk. It's taken me a little while to overcome that risk factor, that fear of getting injured again. I'm proud of the progress I've made but [feel] I'm nowhere near the top yet.
[During my physical] rehab, I was thinking, 'Why am I working so hard to get back to skiing, what's the rush?' Maybe I should just take some time and wait until next year. But there was some nagging feeling that I had to get back to it, and I didn't know what that was.
I never questioned myself before—I cared but didn't know why I cared. Now, I wonder what my place is in the sport, in the world and what my goals are. Those things are leaving me with more questions than answers. And when I have a bad result it's more than about being happy or sad, it's why I love the sport; it's a metaphor for life.
Anything can happen on race day—pressure comes in waves. And with expectations, one day I don't care what people want to see from me, and the next I think, 'Oh no, this is devastating, what will they say about me if I lose or fail?' But something I'm telling myself more and more, and I'm starting to believe, is that I've had one of the most successful seasons of my career, so it's not about what I have to do [win a third championship title], it's about what I want to do.
To be exposed to [international] competition at a young age is very important. Longines [the Swiss watch company] is giving kids [from around the world] an opportunity to race against each other. It's motivating. It's inspiring. It's a great gage for them and a really huge way to develop the sport and these young athletes. I'm proud to be a part of the Longines Future Ski Champions program.
US Athletes competing in the 2017 Alpine World Championships tech events at St. Moritz
(Additional Alpine World Championship participation indicated by years)
Michael Ankeny, Deephaven, MN, Buck Hill Ski Team
David Chodounksy, Crested Butte, CO, Crested Butte Ski Team (2011, 2013, 2015)
Ryan Cochran-Siegle, Starksboro, VT, Cochran's Ski Club/Mt. Mansfield Ski Club (2013)
Mark Engel, Truckee, CA, Sugar Bowl Academy
Tommy Ford, Bend, OR, Mt. Bachelor Ski Education Foundation (2011, 2015)
AJ Ginnis, Vouliagmeni, Greece, Green Mountain Valley School
Tim Jitloff, Reno, NV, Park City Ski Team (2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015)
Robby Kelley, Starksboro, VT, Cochran's Ski Club/Mt. Mansfield Ski Club (2013)
Megan McJames, Park City, UT, Park City Ski Team (2009, 2011, 2015)
Mikaela Shiffrin, Eagle-Vail, CO, Burke Mountain Academy/Ski & Snowboard Club Vail (2013, 2015)
Resi Stiegler, Jackson Hole, WY, Jackson Hole Ski Club (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015)
Broadcast Times for Tech Events (Check listings for time changes)
2/16/17 3:45 am ET Streaming NBCSports.com Run 1
2/16/17 6:30 am ET NBCSN Run 2
2/16/17 10:30 am ET NBCSN Run 2 (re-air)
2/17/17 3:45 am ET Steaming NBCSports.com Run 1
2/17/17 6:30 am ET NBCSN Run 2
2/17/17 10:30 am ET NBCSN Run 2 (re-air)
2/18/17 3:45 am ET Streaming NBCSports.com Run 1
2/18/17 7:00 am ET Streaming NBCSports.com Run 2
2/18/17 1:00 pm ET NBC Run 2
2/19/17 3:45 am ET Steaming NBCSports.com Run 1
2/13/17 6:30 am ET NBCSN Run 2