No longer 'mentally tired,' Shiffrin eyes '18 Olympic debut

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Instead, it was about failing to even finish three of her last four races.

Friday afternoon, as she prepared for her fourth - and likely final - Olympics, she sobbed.

For every bit of warranted cynicism the Olympic movement breeds, of course, there are moments too real to manufacture. All it took was someone asking about Don Kildow, her grandfather and the reason a girl from Minnesota grew into the greatest ski racer America has ever known.

Some folks to keep an eye on who could spring a surprise include Petra Vlhova of Slovakia, the last person to beat Shiffrin in a slalom race before the American's lengthy winning streak; Sofia Goggia of Italy, who will be making her Olympic debut but won two World Cup races on the mountain in South Korea in March 2017; Michael Matt of Austria, whose older brother Mario defeated Hirscher for the gold in slalom four years ago; Andrew Weibrecht of the USA (nickname: War Horse), who came out of nowhere to pick up medals in 2010 and 2014 and maybe - just maybe - could do it again. Kildow died at 88 on November 1. Vonn said that this time she is trying "to soak in as much of the Olympic experience as I can".

She paused before adding: "Yeah, I just want so badly to do well for him and". He's been such a big part of my life. I really had hoped he'd be alive to see me.

"I'm not going to be nervous, I know he's looking out for me and that gives me some peace of mind". "And I do. I've done it before and I know I can do it again".

"And I know it's a comparison between sports and I don't think there's a sport in the Winter Olympics where you can win 23 medals across three or four Olympics".

All the control and calculation that come with high-profile athletes who depend upon sponsors for their livelihood - and particularly those in a long-term relationship with Tiger Woods - melted away when Vonn talked about Kildow. Next comes the downhill on February 21, then the combined two days after that. He and his wife, Shirley, have a shrine to their granddaughter in their basement. Vonn has won 81 World Cup races. With six more, she'll pass Ingemar Stenmark as the most prolific skier in history. "Even though he had more wins, he had a different schedule than her and had many more opportunities and different risk tolerance".

Shiffrin, who could compete in all five alpine events - downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G and combined at the 2018 Games, played down any suggestions she could match the champion swimmer.

"When I warm up in the morning, I need to warm up my knee first for 15 minutes, then I have to bike and have to stretch", she said.

When it does, Vonn remains formidable.

Innerhofer, who has form on the mountain having finished second in the super-G in the test World Cup event two years ago, has struggled to bother the podium on a regular basis since his Sochi showing but insisted he still had something to offer. "Hopefully they can find me a guy now", she joked. Beyond that, her knees will tell her when to quit.

She said she and the other passengers eventually made it to South Korea.

That is the sort of burden of expectations she places on herself.

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