Mikaela Shiffrin: In their words | VailDaily.com

Mikaela Shiffrin: In their words

Current and former competitors, coaches and commentators reflect on the American superstar's impact to skiiing

Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates after winning a World Cup slalom on Saturday, March 11, in Are, Sweden, to break Ingemar Stenmark's all-time wins record. Shiffrin now stands alone atop the wins list with 87.
Alessandro Trovati/AP

Lindsey Vonn, four-time Olympian, three-time Olympic medalist, four-time World Cup overall champion, winner of 82 World Cup races

Lindsey Vonn is the only woman to ever race the Streif downhill course — under the lights, no less.
Joerg Mitter/Red Bull

What Mikaela has done by breaking this record is set a shining example of what women can do. She is inspiring the next generation and has taken the baton that was passed to me on to the next. It’s amazing to see.

Daron Rahlves, four-time Olympian, 2001 super-G World Champion

Daron Rahlves celebrates on the podium of the men’s World Cup Downhill at the Lauberhorn in Wengen, Switzerland, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2006. Rahlves had 12 World Cup wins in his career, including one in Vail in 2003 and one at Beaver Creek in 2005.
Alessandro della Valle/AP

I was on the Lindsey Vonn HBO film shoot in Cortina with TGR capturing her last season hunting the overall win title. She was skiing really fast in the super-G, but unfortunately went out. Mikaela crushed it and won the race. I was alongside Jeff, her dad, before the awards. He showed Mikaela a photo of her off the last jump with tips up in the backseat. The intention was for a little prod and laugh, but mostly to pay attention to the details and ways to be better even after a win. On top of Mikaela’s own grit and drive, her family and team strives to support and push her.

Thomas Walsh, 2022 Beijing Paralympic silver medalist, childhood friend, Vail-born and raised

Thomas Walsh, a 2022 Paralympic silver medalist, was one of Mikaela Shiffrin’s childhood friends.
Rick Bowmer/AP photo

While our American ski racing history is rich with accomplishment, Mikaela has managed to show just how much more can be done. In doing so, she has cemented our country’s place in the sport of ski racing. I hope this success brings more attention to our sport domestically as American ski racing still continues to live in the shadows of the “great Europeans.” Mikaela’s upbringing, team management, and overall approach to her craft are calculated and extremely dedicated. The likes can be used as an example for the development of future athletes.

Mikaela Shiffrin is the best ski racer of all time. I have said that for years. Numbers, numbers, numbers. While we are all getting caught up in her records and stats, I feel that the community, and world, need to realize that she is not done. Quote me on this, the best is yet to come from Mikaela.

Liv Moritz, VMS senior, SSCV Alpine skier, 2023 World Junior Alpine Ski Championships competitor

(Mikaela’s performance) has probably made me more aware of my technique and a little hypercritical because she is the most “perfect” skier on the World Cup circuit, and helps me strive to match that level. It is also so cool to see such a dominant American skier because this sport is so popular and big in Europe. She definitely helps bring attention to U.S. Alpine skiing.

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Kjersti Moritz, VMS senior, U.S. Ski D-Team, 2023 World Junior Alpine Ski Championships qualifier

Kjersti Moritz, right, at the Alpine U16 National Championships in Breckenridge in 2019.

I love how down-to-earth she is. We all see her as an amazing skier, as well as a person we can relate to. I remember when I was younger, I would watch videos of Mikaela dancing, and that made me feel like it’s also important to have other passions. I think she has inspired all of us to work extremely hard to get to a high level.

Regan Dewhirst, Mikaela’s physical therapist

Regan Dewhirst
Courtesy photo

Reflecting on my memories with Mikaela, it’s all of the little actions, away from the crowds, that make her so special. Typically the first one on the hill, and the last one off, Mikaela takes the time to make sure each of us are warm enough throughout the session — checking in every run and always offering up an extra layer. Once during a training session, I crashed and scraped up my face. She stopped everything she was doing, scooped me up, cleaned out my goggles, and pulled out a tissue to wipe off my face.

When any of us get sick throughout the season, Mikaela is the first one to bring Gatorade, crackers, and cough drops — she is constantly thinking of others’ well-being, caring for her people, and giving back to her community. Even back when she was a kid, I remember her using her free time after training to help paint the local ski lodge.

Despite her endlessly hectic schedule, Mikaela will always dedicate time to support and mentor her teammates. Aware of everyone’s emotions, Mikaela is often sending texts mid-workout to check in on other athletes, or she’s carving out time after dinner to discuss their tactical approaches.

In addition to the guidance she provides to her current team, Mikaela has also raised the bar technically for the next generation: She has demonstrated the benefits of mastering the fundamentals and the value of never getting complacent. She’s also shown younger athletes that success is not always linear — but with perseverance, creativity, innovation, and a bit of patience, goals can in fact be achievable.

Aleksandar Aamodt Kilde, 2020 overall crystal globe winner, 2022 and 2023 downhill globe winner, Mikaela’s boyfriend

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde poses with a fan at the Westin during last year’s meet and greet. “When we met up with younger fans last year in Vail she was always smiling, taking care of everyone and in a such graceful way,” Kilde said.
Ryan Sederquist/Vail Daily

She’s one of the most caring people I know. A good example of that is when we met up with younger fans last year in Vail. She was always smiling, taking care of everyone, and in a such graceful way.

Since the day Mikaela stepped into the World Cup, she has shown a new level of skiing. A mixture of elegance and power is something you rarely see, and the way she has given the younger generations possibilities to learn just by watching is incredible. She has also stayed humble and calm even though she’s the most winningest Alpine skier ever — which gives everybody a picture of how you can win with style.

Karin Harjo, Mikaela’s head coach

Karin Harjo was named Mikaela Shiffrin’s new head coach on March 13, 2023.
Michael Probst/AP photo

Mikaela’s legacy continues to grow with each passing moment and will be hers to define with no limits. As she has said, “she’s just getting started!” 

I believe her legacy empowers women to be who they want to be by showing them there are no boundaries or limits too great or small to overcome. She also has a heart to inspire and lift up female coaches. Her mother Eileen has been a coach her entire career and she wants to inspire more women to follow in her mother’s footsteps. This awareness creates opportunity, and with each opportunity we can also create change.

Paul Kristofic
Courtesy photo

Paul Kristofic, head women’s coach, U.S. Alpine Ski Team

To the U.S. ski community, Mikaela is an example to all athletes, families, coaches — how an American athlete can perform at the highest level in a European-dominated sport, how to study the sport and put each learning into practice, and how much you need to commit as an athlete to make it in our sport.  

On a downhill training day in Cortina this year, one of the younger speed girls was struggling with her approach on the race track. The coaches watched video with her as we do each day. After dinner, Mikaela approached the younger racer and offered to watch the video with her and share some thoughts and ideas.

They spent close to an hour going through each of the eight video sections of the track, top to bottom, and spoke about their tactical approach and what they felt in the run. To me, it was a moment that exemplifies Mikaela as a caring teammate. She has empathy and feel, knowing when someone is struggling, and has the willingness to share her experiences and help a friend. She has the kindest soul and is an incredible giving person.

Chris Anthony, Colorado Snowsports Hall of Fame, award-winning documentary producer, veteran Warren Miller athlete

Chris Anthony is an award-winning documentary producer, director, writer, and editor. He has appeared in 28 Warren Miller films as a featured athlete.
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Mikaela is grounded. You have to take this in perspective. This individual has accomplished something that no other human has accomplished in the statistics of the sport. And since she still seems to have the fire inside and the team around her, she is not done. She appears to respect this talent and the responsibility that comes with it, and this is not easy when you are under a microscope all the time. The sport could not ask for a better character to be holding this crown.

Cindy Nelson, first American downhill World Cup winner, four-time Olympian

Cindy Nelson, one of the most successful U.S. skiers in the ’70s and ’80s, was first named to the U.S. Ski Team as a 16-year-old. She won a bronze medal in downhill for the United States at the 12th Winter Olympics at Innsbruck, Austria in 1976.
AP photo

I think Mikaela’s “magic” comes from her instincts developed in her early days skiing (thanks in a large part to her folks and their skiing excellence). Her “feel” of the snow, skis and speed, her ability to read the terrain blended with her exceptional balance, athleticism and impeccable technique make up her “magic.”

Alpine ski racing greats have always been spoken about in the Alpine countries but to transcend that familiarity to households worldwide has never happened before, especially for a female … and she’s doing it with remarkable style! Gracefully, humbly, creating a new mark in skiing. She is simply the best thing to happen to snow sports!

Doug Lewis, two-time Olympian, NBC sports ski analyst, 2008-2019

Doug Lewis
Courtesy photo

I feel honored and proud to have been able to call many of Mikaela’s World Cup races, including her first ever way back in 2011 and her first win in 2012. Around the time she won her 10th race, my partner Steve Porino asked me on live TV how many World Cup slaloms I thought she would win. I kinda jokingly said 50! He looked at me and we both laughed, and here we are in 2023 and she has 53 and counting!

I first met an 11-year-old Mikaela when she attended ELITEAM camps and the thing that stood out was her passion and work ethic to master a skill. She was definitely not the fastest or strongest at that age at camp, but she has this incredible drive to keep practicing and practicing until she got it right which amazed me. I had to make her stop trying so we could go to lunch with the rest of the camp!

Champions love to do the hard work, the nasty, tough workouts. They are outside grinding it out when others quit. They enjoy the day-in and day-out struggle and push to achieve the step-by-step goals that will bring them to the top. Mikaela exemplifies that. We see her ski the race and stand on the podium, but what we rarely see is where and when she actually wins the races — on the hill at 7 a.m., digging deep to make that incremental step forward towards the goal.

Coley Oliver, Park City Ski and Snowboard, head men’s FIS coach, former coach of Mikaela’s

Coley Oliver

How did MJ or Kobe change basketball? How did Serena or Roger Federer change tennis? The hallmark of a dominant force in sport is their longevity and ability to continuously refine their skill set once they have surpassed all others. I dare say training video of Mikaela is one of the most coveted resources in ski racing, because we study the best in the hope to uncover their secrets to speed. But who do the best watch?

Her greatest impact on the sport is her constant pursuit of the perfect turn. And every time I think she’s created the perfect arc, she makes it better. Just a little cleaner, a little tighter, a little faster. While we often see perfection as a finite destination, champions like Mik see perfection as an unobtainable goal, yet they continue to chase it. Her intense dedication to her craft is surpassed only by her kindness, authenticity, and humility.

My hope is that the stories we tell of Mikaela Shiffrin will center around how she carried herself in victory, and defeat, as much as her prowess on skis.


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