9 More Reasons to Love Olympic Alpine Skier Mikaela Shiffrin
Skier Mikaela Shiffrin has already reached the pinnacle of achievement in her sport, despite being just 22 years-old. She also has a strong affinity for pickles. The latter portion of the athlete's personality might be overshadowed by her prowess on the slopes: She's already notched a gold medal in Olympic slalom and can call herself the reigning overall World Cup champ, but there's way more than meets the eye when it comes to Shiffrin.
She returns to competition at the 2018 Winter Olympics in PyeongChang on Tuesday night at 8pm ET, when Women's Alpine Skiing begins. In the meantime, get to know a little bit more about the American prodigy, as explained in her own words:
Her first memory of skiing isn't a pretty one
"5 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," she said in statements provided by the US Olympic Committee and NBC Olympics. "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!"
She's had big obstacles to 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 down stairs"
She's always training for the big stage
"People always seem to be surprised that we are constantly training, because we compete every season, whether it is an Olympic season or not. I start racing every season at the end of October and the World Cup season goes until the middle of March, and after that I get a short break and then I start in with training camps and my conditioning blocks. I think because a lot of people only tune into sports during the Olympics, they think that we only compete for the Olympics, which is not true."
Her earliest Olympics memory is glorious
"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."
Training regimens are, well, really difficult
"The hardest part is probably the constant training in grueling conditions. Sometimes we have really nice, sunny days, with perfect snow conditions, and you couldn’t ask for anything better, but it is often freezing cold, raining, or a blizzard, and you really have to dig deep to get the most out of the session. One thing people don’t realize about my sport is that even though I have training sessions that last 5 hours or so, I only get about 7-10 minutes doing my actual sport, because the rest of the time is spent on chairlifts, doing video analysis, taking a rest. The ski run in gates actually only lasts 45-60 seconds on any give training day, and we will take anywhere between 7-16 runs. It does not add up to a lot of time as in other sports, for example tennis, where you can hit a ball for 3 hours straight and get a TON of practice. In ski racing, you literally can NOT be on snow training enough because the time in gates is so limited"
Her life advice is quite simple
"Smile. Smiling releases endorphins in you brain that actually make you feel happier, so no matter what is going on, try to remember to smile!"
Her biggest Olympics inspiration is a familiar household name
"Michael Phelps is definitely an Olympic inspiration to me. Also Bode Miller, one of my biggest idols in my sport."
She has some incredible hidden talents
"I do a pretty good impersonation of Ana and all her different age voices in 'do you wanna build a snowman' from Frozen... I am reasonable at playing guitar and piano. Don’t have a terrible voice, although I certainly can’t belt it out in an Opera hall! I am pretty good a juggling (sort of circus juggling, but with tennis balls or hackie sacks, not knifes or fireballs), I can unicycle fairly well. and I have a passion for hair styling."
Oh yeah, about those pickles
"I love pickles. Only Claussen Kosher Dill though. I love babies. Baby animals, baby humans, inanimate objects that look like a “baby” (for instance baby evergreen trees hah)."