Shiffrin scales back ski schedule to avoid more fatigue

<p>
              United States' Mikaela Shiffrin leans on her skis in the finish area after completing an alpine ski, women's World Cup slalom in Flachau, Austria, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019. Shiffrin finished in second place. (AP Photo/Giovanni Auletta)
            </p>

SAN VIGILIO DI MAREBBE, Italy (AP) — Battling fatigue from seven races in 19 days, Mikaela Shiffrin is scaling back her schedule.

The overall World Cup ski leader will not compete in two downhills in Cortina d’Ampezzo this week as originally planned.

“It was on her A plan from the beginning of the season but speed is something that you don’t take part in when you have fatigue and that’s either mental fatigue or physical fatigue and in this case she has a bit of both,” Mike Day, Shiffrin’s head coach with the U.S. Ski Team, told The Associated Press on Monday. “It’s been a line that we’ve drawn from the start with regards to speed.”

So, following a giant slalom at Kronplatz on Tuesday, Shiffrin will shift to more training before likely returning for a super-G on Sunday in Cortina. The downhills she will skip are scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

“It’s not the smartest choice for us and we’re going to get some more rest and do a little super-G training and see how that goes and make a decision as we work through the week,” Day said.

While known as a technical specialist for her near-domination in slalom and giant slalom, Shiffrin also leads the super-G standings this season — by 25 points ahead of Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway.

“It really has very little to do with (the super-G lead),” Day said. “If you look forward from there it’s unlikely that she’s going to compete in many or any more super-Gs. So it’s not defending it at this point, it’s just getting some super-G training in and getting ready for world champs.”

Shiffrin will be a multi-medal threat at the worlds in Are, Sweden, in February. The American won gold in giant slalom and silver in combined at last year’s Pyeongchang Olympics but came fourth in the slalom — normally her best event.

So will she compete in the super-G at the worlds, the opening event on Feb. 5?

“There’s some interest there,” Day said. “We still haven’t defined what exactly our A plan is going to be. It’s not easy to go up there for the first event and then wait around for the tech events. We have a lot of plans in play and we just have to make the smartest choice and give her the best chances to succeed.”

During that span of seven races in 19 days from Dec. 21 to Jan. 8, Shiffrin posted four victories, finished second twice, and came fifth. In all, she has nine wins this season, putting her within striking distance of the all-time record of 14 set by Swiss great Vreni Schneider in 1988-89.

The grueling 19-day span took Shiffrin from France to Austria then up to Norway and down to Croatia before finally concluding in Flachau, Austria.

“After Flachau we had to find some rest,” Day said. “Flachau was a point where her tank was running super low and now we’re just trying to fill the tank back up as we move forward toward world championships.”

Shiffrin is determined to win at Kronplatz after failing to reach the podium in her first two races there. Shiffrin finished fifth in San Vigilio in 2017 and last year had an uncharacteristic fall in the first run, losing control as she entered the toughest section of a slope named Erta, which translates as steep. With a gradient of 61 percent in that section, the fall produced the unlikely sight of Shiffrin falling a long way down the slope.

Perhaps with those results in mind, Shiffrin spent the Christmas holiday in San Vigilio and did some free skiing on the Erta.

“Familiarity with the terrain and comfort with the hill. It never hurts to get some trips down it,” Day said. “I expect her to come out with some fire and wanting to improve what has been her recent history here.

“Last year she was skiing very aggressively — which was something we were looking for — and then she just made a silly mistake in the wrong spot. And this is the type of hill where you can’t make those mistakes, especially in the spots like the main pitch that are really sharp and steep.”

Over Christmas, Shiffrin stayed at the Moelgg Dolomites Residence , which is run by the family of Manfred and Manuela Moelgg, current and recently retired World Cup skiers. The Moelggs shared some local knowledge of the slopes with Shiffrin.

“Super friendly family and nice place to spend the holidays,” Day said. “So it was a multi-purpose rest and training project.”