Less than 24 hours before kicking out of the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup Finals start gate for the slalom battle of the ages, Mikaela Shiffrin was honored in Lenzerheide as the Longines Rising Star, signifying the top young female racer of 2013.
“One of my goals from the very start of my ski racing career was to be the youngest to win World Cups and make a mark as a young athlete,” said Shiffrin. “It’s really cool that Longines has this award dedicated to young athletes and success. It’s cool to push young athletes to do their very best and this helps do that because we’re not always going to be competing for an overall globe or titles – it’s great to know that young athletes have something special of their own to shoot for.”
Shiffrin will enter Saturday’s race just seven points behind overall, super G and giant slalom title winner Tina Maze of Slovenia for a winner-take-all matchup for the season-long slalom crown.
“I can’t really pick a top highlight this season,” Shiffrin said. “I’d tend to say Are [Sweden] because it was my first win and the first time I was able to say ‘OK, I can do this.’ But then the next win came in Zagreb and that was special in it’s own way and then there was Flachau and that was such a fight. Each of those wins were really special, but the World Championships were incredible. So I guess i’d have to pick the gold medal as my highlight, but hopefullly I add to those highlights tomorrow.”
The now-18-year-old athlete has three slalom wins this season and is the World Championships gold medallist in the discipline.
“I keep saying Saturday’s race is going to be the battle of the ages, but it’s really not about me versus Tina [Maze],” Shiffrin said. “It’s about me against the clock and against every other racer in the field. There are such a strong group of slalom skiers in this race and I’m thinking about how I have to be fast against all of them. Of course my goal is to win, I want to take the slalom title. But if Tina wins, I’ll still be so happy. This has been such a special season already and I feel so fortunate to be in a position where I’m competing against someone like Tina, who has won in all disciplines this year.”
Frenchman Alexis Pinturault, 21, captured the men’s Rising Star honor. He didn’t know what to expect of a season where he was coming back from an injury so picking a highlight wasn’t that difficult.
“For sure the three victories this season were my highlights but especially the first one in Val d’Isere was a big moment,” Pinturault said. “It was my first podium after surgery and my first victory in Slalom. We are in a sport where time means everything, our every race revolves around time and we have to be as fast as we can and now I have a beautiful watch to measure it.”