American skier - Shiffrin is right back on top, heading to the Olympics. And she is certain that her comeback had arrived just in time.

Shiffrin, an eight time Olympic and world champion is once again atop the Alpine World Cup overall standings.

Ten weeks ago, as she sat in the kitchen of her Colorado home, Shiffrin all but predicted her comeback after nearly two years mourning the death of her father and a series of nettlesome injuries and uneven results [ by her record-setting standards ]. She was also peeved that some in the ski racing community had already begun writing her off.

'' Like seriously people, how quick are you to forget?'' she said, her voice rising. '' When a devastating thing happens, it's like coming back from a significant injury. I hadn't lost my ability or lost my fire, I was just healing, OK?''

As Shiffrin, 26, prepared for the Beijing Games, she has withered a race season vastly different from the ones that preceded her appearances at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, when she became the youngest slalom gold medallist, or the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, when she won gold and silver medals.

For example, nearly two weeks ago, because of positive coronavirus test, she spent nine days quarantined in Central Europe - '' mostly sitting around or lying down in a room,'' she said - and prohibited from any exercise that would raise her heartbeat or breathing rate. Barred from going outside, she gingerly flexed two fitness bands and gently lifted a kettlebell.

Then one recent Thursday, a day after she was cleared to return to the World Cup circuit, she was at the start gate of a long, challenging slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, and wondered : ''If I stop halfway to rest, would anybody mind?''

Shiffrin finished second to her chief rival, Petra VIhova, but she bested VIhova, and nearly the entire field, in the second run of the event. It was the kind of charging closing run that had been Shiffrin's hallmark - until last season when she uncharacteristically lost some first-run leads at the halfway mark at races.

Thursday, Shiffrin acknowledged there had been a noticeable shift in her performances this season. It is part of what she means when she says she is feeling like herself again.

At last year's Zagreb race, for instance, Shiffrin said she had been distracted and sad between runs, something that has happened frequently since her father's death on Feb 2, 2020.

''It was like somebody was stabbing me right in my chest for the entire race day,'' she said. ''I was sitting apart from everyone, and I remember thinking that they probably think that I'm so sad right now because I'm not winning, but I don't even want to be here racing at all.

Shiffrin began seeing a sports psychologist last summer and said it is now easier to compartmentalize her emotions and reset her attention on skiing when she's training or racing.

'' For a while now I've able to refocus my mental and emotional energy on my skiing again, and that's been really important,'' she said. '' Because that's a skill I'be been able to do for my whole career. So that's come back very well and made a big difference.''

THIS SEASON, Shiffrin, whose 72 World Cup victories are just 14 short of Ingemar Stenmark's career record of 86, has also done something few of her colleagues can claim, which is to race in every World Cup discipline - slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill.

Moreover, in what could be one of the biggest Alpine Olympic story lines in Beijing, she still hopes to keep her preseason goal  of racing in all five events there, an even rarer feat that Shiffrin has yet to achieve.

Entering every event at the 2022 Games could have historic consequences.

The World Students Society thanks Bill Pennington.


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