To Mikaela and the Shiffrins with love
What do you do in a moment like this?
Saying, “I’m sorry about your father,” seems so insufficient, so insignificant, not even close to what is required.
When we started to hear about this on Sunday afternoon, my heart ached for you. As personal as that moment had to be for you, we do know what that’s like.
What happened? How did it happen? What do I do?
The why is the biggest kick in the pants. Regardless of the circumstances, the age of your loved one (it’s always too early), whether he or she had been sick or not, whatever, the moment reaches into your chest and rips everything out, leaving your world spinning.
That you are the greatest skier in the world right now is only part of the reason we in Eagle County ache for you. Yes, you have brought so much joy to us in your staggering resume of accomplishments, which is pretty much everything an Alpine racer can do. It’s how you’ve done it.
You carry yourself with grace and dignity. It’s always stunned me that you’ve been anywhere from 16- to 24-year-old and in the public eye. As grand as the accomplishments have been, you carry yourself as a “normal” person.
(Everyone else, try to remember what you were like when you were 19 or 22. Contrast and compare. Nope. Not even close.)
Even when looking “too cool for school” between runs of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships slalom at Beaver Creek— the jumbotron at the base of the hill showed you with your sunglasses on, laying back with your arms behind your head — it wasn’t you trying to be cool. You were just trying to take a nap, which is really cool when you think about it.
And then you won the second of four straight slalom worlds golds that day, you didn’t celebrate immediately. When asked why no major celebration, you said, “Ted (Ligety) throws his ski. Lindsey (Vonn) falls on the ground. (Tina) Maze puts her finger in the air. How about if I do something epic? Then I get to the finish, and I’m like, ‘Hi. I’m kind of a dork.’ I don’t want to show that side of myself. I’m not that great at showing my emotions. Guess I have to work on that.”
That. That right there is it. When things have been great, like your record-setting 2018-19 season, you stayed humble and rightly pointed out that it wasn’t as easy as you were making it look. This year, when everything hasn’t been so smooth, you’ve been gracious about your competition and the situation, even though you’ve doubtless been frustrated.
Heck, quite possibly the most outrageous thing you’ve done is use the poop emoji on Twitter after finishing 17th in a giant slalom in Courchevel, France, in December. (John McEnroe, you are not.)
It’s the poise and maturity beyond your years that makes you special, perhaps no more so, when you hinted at what happened with your family very early Monday morning.
“Go tell everyone you love that you love them and how much you love them, do it right now. Please,” Shiffrin wrote on Twitter.
Oh, do we relate, Mikaela. A bunch of us have gotten that God-awful call. I remember talking to my father on the evening of Aug. 17, 2006 — he died of a heart attack about nine hours later. I still don’t know whether I said I loved him. I probably did.
Everyone handles this differently and you and your mom, Eileen, and your brother, Taylor, will lean on each other at assorted times and in assorted ways. You can also lean on us.
It’s the least we can do after all you’ve done for us.