Shiffrin’s nap habits and humble celebrations
Special to the Daily
BEAVER CREEK — Wondering how Mikaela Shiffrin can lie down in a snow bank, close her eyes and rock out to Katy Perry for several minutes a few yards from the bustling start house where one of the most important runs of her career looms?
Well, the 19-year-old Olympic and two-time world slalom champion has been honing her napping skills for about as long as she has her ski racing.
Before lying in the snow on Saturday, Shiffrin, a self-proclaimed “half bear,” had found a comfy couch in volunteer headquarters to lie down and sneak an hour or so of hibernating between runs.
“She’s been doing that since she was little in home-schooling,” said Mikaela’s mom, Eileen Shiffrin, eyes still slightly tear-stained after watching her daughter land gold in Saturday’s slalom.
“She’d come off the hill and she’d put every ounce of energy into skiing and training, even when she was like 9 years old. So we had the luxury of doing her schoolwork a lot in the evening and I would let her take a nap,” Eileen said.
“Then she’d be refreshed and she’d bust out her schoolwork. She kind of got into the habit of doing that.”
‘Why? Why? Why? Why?’
Now, instead of math equations, Mikaela has the habit of busting out gold medal-winning ski runs after a nap, although her final run in the slalom did have her mother’s heart in her mouth, since Mikaela was losing time to silver medalist Frida Hansdotter before shifting into overdrive on the bottom of the course.
“She always does that in the middle of the course … Why? Why? Why? Why?” Eileen said. “I didn’t know if she could pull it off. I was honestly just thinking, ‘Oh shoot, honey, don’t run out of gas.’ I was really thinking, ‘Hopefully, she’ll get some medal. But she does tend to step on it at the bottom.”
After securing the gold, Shiffrin had to field a lot of questions about her nap between runs and also about why she had so little reaction when she crossed the finish line and saw the green light.
“I think I was still sleeping,” Shiffrin said, laughing. “I put a ton of energy out there especially on that last third of the course, making sure every turn was spot on. I had no energy in the finish.”
Slowly it donned on the Eagle-Vail native that she had just done something kind of great. By the time the crowd was chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Shiffrin was pumping her fist in time.
The celebration, however, remained humble at the Shiffrin household. When asked if there was some sort of dolled up, gold medal layer cake awaiting Mikaela at home, Eileen said the winning treat would most likely be leftovers.
“There’s a gold medal kind of coffee cake thing that we made at home,” Eileen said. “There’s about one and a half left. We’re going to celebrate with that.”
Rita’s two closest peers have climbed the 8,850-meter (29,035-foot) peak 21 times each, but both of them have retired from mountain climbing.