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Mikaela Shiffrin more than ready for Olympic debut

Feb 17, 2014, 8:45 PM EDT

Mikaela Shiffrin AP

An athlete’s first Olympics should be a nerve-racking event. Compete against the best in front of a world-wide audience? How does one prepare for that?

If you’re U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, you’ve been prepping for years.

The 18-year-old will race for the first time in Sochi on Tuesday as one of the favorites in the women’s giant slalom (Watch it here starting at 2 am ET). She’s no novice — she’s the second-youngest American to win a World Cup alpine event and won the 2013 season title in slalom — and says she’s already prepped herself to think that way.

“I am really psyched to race, and I’ve been here before, in my head, for sure,” Shiffrin said, via the AP. “So to everybody, it’s my first Olympics, but to me it’s my thousandth.”

That entails picturing scenarios along the way (how will she feel at the starting gate? And on the podium? Or a crash?) so she can be prepared for whatever the course throws her way. Perhaps it’ll work. Some of her peers seem to think it will.

“She will handle the pressure really good,” Sweden’s Maria Pietilae-Holmner (second in the World Cup giant slalom standings), told the AP. “She’s still young, she’s not thinking too much, and I think she will for sure take one medal, at least.”