Catching up with Mikaela Shiffrin
Since her second-career podium result in Levi, Finland, American ski race phenom Mikaela Shiffrin has been back home in Colorado on a whirlwind media blitz. Ski Racing Magazine had a chance to catch up with the 17-year-old Shiffrin to talk about her recent World Cup results, training and goals for the season.
Ski Racing: Obviously, not the outcome you hoped for in Soelden, so what clicked for you in Levi, and how can you carry that over into Aspen?
Mikaela Shiffrin: I had an awesome period leading into the races in Soelden and Levi, and I was so psyched to race, I was really excited about my GS especially because I have worked really hard since the end of the season last year. All summer long, I've been working really hard on my GS to the point where people are saying, "Wow, what have you done with your GS skiing, you look so different." Hopefully, that's a good thing. I was so excited for Soelden and race day. The day before race day we freeskied on the hill. It's a really difficult hill. It's really steep, and everybody said that, so I was expecting it.
The training was awesome, and then race day came around and all of a sudden I was like, "Wow, this is really steep. It was like a completely different hill, and all of a sudden thoughts started running through my mind like, "What if I don't make flip? What if I go back to my old skiing, which won't get a second run? What if, what if, what if?
(After the race) I talked to the coaches, and they said, "You weren't racing; you were just sleeping going down the course." And I agree. I didn't feel myself so that was a bummer that day.
Leading into Aspen, I'm excited because I had a podium in slalom. I have a little bit more confidence. I know where my head needs to be for the GS and for the slalom in Aspen, and I have to try to keep it there. Just have to try and keep my training scheme out there in Aspen and ski my fastest — and let my instincts take over.
SR: How have you had such a seamless transition onto the new GS skis?
Shiffrin: With the women, the new GS skis didn't change too much. It was a 3-meter radius difference, so there's definitely change — and you feel it, but I expected it. I was thinking, "These new skis are coming in; I'm going to need a tactical change." It took a day (or so) of being on the skis in soft snow. It was really difficult. When I started out, I was like, "Oh no, this is not gonna be good." Then the next day, I got on hard snow and I made the tactical adjustment and it clicked right away.
SR: What's your training going to be like before Aspen?
Shiffrin: Training before Aspen will be high quality, low quantity. I'm just trying to get enough training in that I feel prepared. I tend to go higher volume than most girls just because I'm younger, and I can do the volume without being super sore at the end of the day and bounce back. … But going into Aspen, I'm looking to be fresh and prepared, so we're going to try to find that fine line between enough and too much, and maybe take more of a conservative training approach.
SR: How do your shins feel?
Shiffrin: (laughs) My shins are OK some days, we're figuring some stuff out with my boot setup. I still don't really know what the problem is, but every athlete competes with some sort of pain. It's really rare that you find an athlete who doesn't have pain on any given day. So if I'm gonna have pain, might as well be my shins. I'll still ski, and as long as I can ski I'm happy.
SR: How much is that first World Cup win on your mind?
Shiffrin: Oh yeah, it's there all the time. … On race day, and when I'm skiing, I think about winning, but I don't think about that win — that stereotype of the win and how much hype there's gonna be and sponsors and all that stuff that goes along with winning. I just need to ski my very fastest. And I hope I'm going to win, because that's what everybody is here for: You want to win.
So yes, it's always on my mind, but the only way to get there is to ski your best. I'm finding that good balance between being hungry for the win, but also being hungry just to ski my fastest. Each day, I improve a little bit more, and I know that I have a lot of potential. So we'll just see if it's good enough for a win.
SR: What races are you most looking forward to this season
Shiffrin: I'm looking forward to all of them, really. Every race, every venue is so new and so different.
SR: Do you do anything to take your mind off of skiing?
Shiffrin: I love watching ski video. It's like a lullaby for me. I come off the hill, watch hours of video and think: This is what I can do, and this is what they do. It is like classical music playing in the background. … You'd expect that you'd just wanna go put on some classical music. Who does that? I do. I forgot the question.
SR: I asked you if you ever do anything from time to time to take your mind off skiing.
Shiffrin: (laughs) The other thing is homework. That gets my mind off skiing. And then one of my favorite TV shows is Glee. It's back on, so I'm really excited about that. That's like a little 45 minute woo hoo break.
Photos: Aspen/Snowmass/Jeremy Swanson and SSCV/Michael Suleiman