SCHLADMING, Austria Not every 17-year-old walks into her first World Championships with medal expectations and a roomful of media.
For American Mikaela Shiffrin, its another challenge shes handling like an old pro ahead of todays giant slalom. The high school student has won three World Cup slaloms to match a season record set by Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell.
When Shiffrin won last month, she was exactly the same age 17 years, 308 days as Moser-Proell was when she earned her third career victory in 1971. Moser-Proell holds the record of 62 World Cup wins.
That explains why it wasnt just American media asking Shiffrin how shes handling it all but also Austrian, German and Swiss reporters.
Pressure is just a frame of mind, Shiffrin said. Im doing this for me. Im racing because Ive always loved racing, that adrenaline rush that cant be replaced. Thats all Im doing when Im in the start. Im not thinking about what my friends want me to do or what my parents want me to do. ... Its as simple as that.
In the giant slalom, shes had three top-10 finishes this season. The main event is Saturdays slalom, where shell be a top contender along with overall World Cup leader Tina Maze, Olympic champion Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Veronika Velez Zuzulova who has won two races this season and Marlies Schild.
Shiffrin holds a 33-point lead over Maze in the World Cup slalom standings, but shes quick to point out that most of her success this season has come since Schild was sidelined by a right-knee injury while training in December.
Schild, who has won 33 World Cup slaloms, one short of Swiss standout Vreni Schneiders record, is planning to return for Saturdays race.
Ive had three wins, and Im proud of it, but Ive always felt like there was that piece missing because Marlies is a slalom queen, Shiffrin said this week. I can win snow princess or all these different titles, but she wasnt there, so Im excited to have her back. Im sure theres a lot of pressure on her, but I think shes going to perform strongly, and Im really excited to race against her. Its a complete field now.
Shiffrin warmed up for the worlds by training with the Italian mens team last week.
In a run of 50 seconds, she was losing one or two seconds to guys like (Stefano) Gross and (Olympic champion Giuliano) Razzoli, U.S. technical coach Roland Pfeifer said.
By the next World Championships on Shiffrins home slopes in Vail-Beaver Creek in 2015, she could be entered in more than just the technical events.
Shiffrins goal is to become an all-around skier such as teammate Lindsey Vonn, who is sidelined after suffering a knee injury on opening day of these worlds.
She has one very clear goal, to become the overall World Cup champion as fast as possible, Pfeifer said. Thats what shes saying; thats what shes working on. I think she hasnt realized yet that when she adds super-G and downhill to the program, she will have less time to train slalom and GS.
For now, the coaches are keeping Shiffrin focused on the technical events.
In GS, her turns are not consistent yet, Pfeifer said. If we do 10 runs, she will have two perfect runs and eight rather moderate ones.
As long as shes not perfect in slalom and GS, we wont even talk about the speed disciplines. She already wants to enter these events. We will do a little bit of super-G next season, but as soon as we see that slalom and GS are suffering, well cut it back.
But he sees the upside.
She has enormous potential as a super-G and downhill racer, Pfeifer said. Shes an excellent glider.
Associated Press writer Eric Willemsen contributed to this report.