Still in the heart of her prime at age 26, Mikaela Shiffrin is nothing less than the face of Alpine skiing in 2022. She’s been described by people she calls her idols as a once-in-a-generation skier and is a favorite to win just about any race she enters, especially in the disciplines of slalom and giant slalom. Shiffrin hails from the world-famous ski town of Vail, Colorado, where she first learned how to harness her generational speed on the mountain. She’ll head to her third Winter Olympics in February hoping to build on her three career Olympic medals, two of which are gold.
As part of our preparation for the 2022 Winter Games, NBC Olympics sent questionnaires to numerous athletes to learn more about their lives both inside and outside of sports. Here’s what we found out about Shiffrin:
How has your hometown shaped who you are today?
I moved a fair amount over the years: Vail, CO – Lyme, NH – Eagle Vail, CO – Edwards, CO. So I consider both the Vail Valley as well as Lyme as my “hometowns” because they both played a crucial role in my life both in sport and outside of sport. Growing up in Vail kicked off my love for skiing and racing and then spending years 8-13 in New Hampshire helped grow my love for racing and my ability to race in more “adverse” conditions. Then attending Burke Mountain Academy through high school furthered my development in the sport and allowed me to race World Cup full-time while still finishing high school.
Do you have any pets?
I have a cat, named Muffin. She is fat Tabby cat and does not like strangers! She is almost 12 years old and has had some issues with health recently, but she seems to be doing quite well right now. She sleeps all day, and if she isn’t sleeping then she is eating or begging for food. I love her, although I don’t think that feeling is mutual. Hah! I really love animals in general, pets can create a bit of a messier lifestyle for sure, but they are so fun and sometimes it is nice to have some company without always feeling like you have to talk to them.
What is your favorite workout?
I like sprinting. Although it is also one of the more difficult workouts, it also makes me feel so free. Especially when I am able to sprint or do running intervals outside where it really feels like I am running fast, that is so liberating.
What are your favorite meals?
Breakfast: Two fried eggs and toast with butter and jam. Maybe some avocado. Orange Juice diluted with water. Lunch: Turkey sandwich with swiss cheese and kosher dill pickles on wheat or rye bread. Dinner: Barilla Protein plus with a garlicy tomato-basil sauce, chicken or steak, and salad. Snacks: Dried mangoes, Chobani or Noosa yogurt, chocolate milk.
What is your earliest memory in your sport?
Five years old. It was my first memory of a powder day in Vail, and I got stuck under the snow and felt like I was suffocating. My dad pulled me out of the snow upside down by my ski boots and gave me a few quick instructions on how to ski in powder snow. He told me to lean a little bit back so my ski tips didn’t sink into the snow, and not to use my edges so much. So I skied straight down the next run totally in the backseat and had to wait at the bottom of the trail for 15 minutes for everyone to catch up to me.
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What is your earliest memory watching the Olympics?
I remember watching replays of Bode Miller winning his medals in Salt Lake City. I dreamed about winning Olympic medals like him, but I did not expect that it would really happen until it actually did.
Are you close friends with any competitors?
I have become pretty good friends with some of the Italian and Austrian racers! I’m friendly with pretty much everyone.
Who is your biggest rival?
My biggest rivals are a few racers from different places in Europe. Wendy Holdner, Veronika Zuzulova, Frida Hansdotter, Tessa Worley, Federica Brignone, Sofia Goggia, Lara Gut and Ilka Stuhec. Mostly these are friendly rivalries. There is always some kind of drama, but I have pretty good relationships with everyone on the World Cup circuit. All my competitors are really cool, funny, and work really hard, and I generally don’t have any reason to have a contentious relationship with any of them.
Biggest obstacle that you’ve overcome?
One of the bigger obstacles that I recently faced was a knee injury last year. Luckily it was not as bad as it could have easily been, but I tore my MCL, got a tibial plateau fracture and a large bone bruise, and had to take two months off from skiing in the middle of the competition season. I did not need surgery, but I was on crutches for two weeks, had to learn how to walk again, and spent a ton of time in rehab and therapy trying to do basic things like straightening and bending my knee or activating my quad muscle. All of that gets quite monotonous when you spend your whole life skiing at 40-80 miles per hour, and all the sudden you can’t do simple things like get milk from the refrigerator or walk downstairs.
What is your biggest fear when competing?
Probably crashing through the fence into the woods. I do not like the idea of hitting a tree skiing as fast as we do.
What advice would you give a young person in your sport?
I love my sport! It is so fun and so rewarding when I do it well. But it is difficult. It is cold, you get battered and bruised, and often times you just want to quit. Kids that want to be ski racers need to know there will probably be more bad days than good, and they have to learn to see the good parts of every day, even the bad days. There is always something to learn, and if they can focus on the positive, it will keep them moving forward and excited to do it!
Do you play any other sports?
Tennis, not competitively, but I am pretty good. My mom taught me to play and she is a really great athlete and tennis player.
Do you have any nicknames?
Miki, Mika, Shiffy, Shiffy 2 (technically my bro is Shiffy 1!), McShiff… All of these are just fun names that my friends would call me in school. Miki is what I sign as my autograph.
What would you be doing if you were not an athlete?
Probably graduating from college. I haven’t really had a chance to explore my other passions in life, but I always loved science. I like interior design, I like fashion and hair styling, I love the outdoors, I like food, and I like helping people. I don’t know where that would lead me, but I’m sure there are other purposes for me besides skiing.