Mikaela Shiffrin: The champion comes home
Cinebistro in Vail
Maya in the Westin in Avon.
Ellie Goulding, Sia.
Editor’s note: This story first appeared in 2015 magazine. The FIS Alpine World Ski Championships begin Monday.
EAGLE-VAIL — Sometimes, it’s the little things that make the difference.
Mikaela Shiffrin will be enjoying all of those little things when she comes home for the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships.
Like sleeping in her own bed. Lighting a candle in her room. Cooking her own meals in her own kitchen. And knowing that the World Championships course at Beaver Creek — a hill she loves to ski — is just a few miles away from her Eagle-Vail home.
“I’m just so excited to be able to race on that hill,” Shiffrin said. “It’s my hometown, so I love to spend time there. I’ve thought a lot about what it’s going to be like, and as far I can see, it’s going to be really fun.”
For these World Championships, Shiffrin will be somewhat of a veteran. She’s the defending champ in the World Championship slalom, having won in Schladming, Austria, in 2013.
She also has race experience on the Raptor course. Shiffrin earned her first giant slalom podium at Beaver Creek in 2013, when she finished second.
“It was the one race last season where I woke up in the morning and didn’t feel one ounce of pressure,” Shiffrin said. “I had a smile on my face from the minute I woke up to the minute I went to sleep.”
Shiffrin has seemed to rarely succumb to any type of pressure in her brief yet fruitful career — she’s the two-time defending World Cup slalom title winner and the 2014 slalom Olympic gold medalist. Minutes after winning her gold medal, asked how winning a gold medal would change her life, Shiffrin said, “I’m going to be the same girl and still be looking for more speed on the mountain.”
Sure enough, even after a whirlwind post-Olympics media tour, a visit with President Barack Obama and walking the red carpet at the ESPYs (the one athlete she sought out to chat with was tennis star Maria Sharapova), Shiffrin said her life isn’t much different.
“So far I feel like exactly the same person. Sometimes I forget I went to Sochi this past winter. I forget I won a gold medal. … For the most part, unless people ask about it, I don’t think about it.”
The 19-year-old skiing star doesn’t rest very much. Shortly after wrapping up her second slalom title in March of 2013, Shiffrin was back on Beaver Creek Mountain training on the Raptor course. She has discussed possibly moving into super-G this year, but she has also put a lot of emphasis into developing her GS racing. She earned her first GS victory in Soelden, Austria, in October.
Shiffrin said the names to watch for during the World Championships, besides herself, are Tina Weirather, Anna Fenninger, Lara Gut and Wendy Holdener. And, of course, Lindsey Vonn, her fellow Vail hometown favorite.
Shiffrin and the rest of the athletes will be racing in front of thousands of fans, hundreds of reporters and photographers, with an audience of millions on TV.
“The World Championships is the pinnacle of ski racing,” Shiffrin said. “It’s a big event. Ski racers think it’s important; anybody who likes ski racing, fans, especially in Europe, think it’s really important.”
And what would it mean to win gold in front of the hometown crowd?
“It’d be really special,” she said. “Winning any World Championships medal anywhere is really special.”