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His Olympic goal, athlete pressure and a heartbreaking loss – NBC Chicago

At 26, Mikaela Shiffrin is already a record holder.

She has 47 World Cup slalom victories, more than anyone else in any race. On top of that, the alpine skier from Colorado is a two-time Olympic gold medalist.

Shiffrin isn’t afraid to share her opinions, which she did when gymnast Simone Biles said she was weighed down by “the weight of the world” and missed a string of finals at the Tokyo Olympics.

And Shiffrin has been open about the difficult task ahead after her father’s accidental death in February 2020.

From the unfathomable loss to his 2022 Winter Games priority to athlete expectations, here’s what you need to know about the athlete:

Olympic Focus

The two-time alpine skiing gold medalist did not complete her first runs in either of her initial two events, the two-run giant slalom and the slalom, before finishing ninth in the super-G, another race in which she did not. had not participated before. at the Olympics.

As a specialist in the technical disciplines of slalom and giant slalom, downhill speed and super-G events are still new and ongoing for Shiffrin.

In addition to his 47 World Cup victories in slalom, Shiffrin has 14 in giant slalom, including four in super-G and two in downhill.

And although she said, “There’s always a part of you that thinks, ‘Maybe there’s a chance,'” when it comes to a top-three result on Tuesday , Shiffrin gave new insight into his state of mind.

“I don’t focus on the medal anymore. It’s just trying to do my best every day. Anyway, it’s my best chance to win a medal. So maybe it’s a bit of a paradox … that your best chance of having that performance is to stop thinking about the performance and focus on what you’re doing in that moment,” Shiffrin said. “So I just try to be present in the moment, especially with the descent.”

Shiffrin & Kilde: the powerhouse of ski racing

Shiffrin and her boyfriend, Norwegian runner Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, are two elite athletes in the same sport.

They support each other, help each other and watch each other’s races.

“Together we can talk about anything and it doesn’t have to be serious, we support each other through good times and bad. And that’s what we’re here for,” Kilde said. That’s why you have a partner, so you can share whatever you want to share with her.”

She has won three overall World Cup titles; he won one. Shiffrin arrived in China as a two-time Olympic gold medalist, placed ninth in the super-G and will compete in the downhill for the first time on Tuesday. Kilde, 29, collected two medals in Beijing, including a silver in the combined.

“A lot of people have said to me, ‘It’s hard to find someone who’s okay with you being more in the spotlight than them.’ But at the same time, he’s under the same pressure, he’s got the same goals…the same mentality. He’s under the same spotlight, actually,” Shiffrin said in an interview last year. “He’s so excited for me to do what I’m doing and he’s so excited to do what he’s doing himself.”

An unfathomable loss

Shiffrin’s father, Jeff, taught the Olympian to stay in the moment and focus.

He was there for his previous two Winter Olympics and so many other important occasions. Jeff Shiffrin died in February 2020 at age 65 in an accident at the family home in Colorado.

“It’s still quite painful to think about it, so I don’t think about it too much,” Mikaela said in an interview. “I imagine there are going to be some really, really tough times. And some of them will be OK as well. So it’s like anything in life. With that, the tough times hit when they do. want. It’s not when you choose to be sad or excited.

Mikaela can never be certain when the happy memories of her father will return.

Or when deep, deep sadness might set in.

“You don’t recover in a year. You don’t recover in a year and a half,” said Mike Day, Mikaela’s lead coach with the United States Ski Team. “It happens at a different pace for everyone, and I think she’s far from done with grief and healing. She’s made tremendous progress and kind of captured a lot of elements of her life. , but it’s something she’ll never get back in. It hits you at different times and times.

Mikaela took a break from skiing after her father passed away to grieve.

Her return to the tracks and a subsequent victory was, of course, bittersweet and incredibly emotional, so much so that Mikaela was unsure at the bottom of the hill if she wanted the “W” she had earned.

“It was a bit of a relief to win a race again,” she said. “I certainly had a lot of doubts about whether it was going to happen again, but there was a pretty big part of me that was kind of hoping that I wouldn’t. Like, it’s great to win but it’s a bit of a shame. I don’t know how to handle this at all.”

Talking about emotional health

“It has to be gold, otherwise it’s a huge disappointment.”

This is how Shiffrin thinks some people see some participants in the Olympic Games. For gymnastics superstar Simone Biles, who has previously opened up about being “overwhelmed by the weight of the world,” Shiffrin realized, “It even went one step further.

“It wouldn’t have been a ‘disappointment’; people weren’t even considering it as a possibility. And what I know about that kind of pressure is: it’s not easy to win. Never,” she said.

Wrap it all up, she continued, and the Games themselves are “not really an enjoyable process overall”.

Yes, Shiffrin acknowledged, there are wonderful snippets. Memories to cherish for a lifetime. And, yes, it’s all worth it.

“But it’s not like rainbows and sunshine and butterflies and everything people say,” Shiffrin said. “They’re like, ‘Wow, looks like that was so much fun!’ And you’re like, ‘Well, it was fun to cross the finish line and, within five seconds, see the green light (signaling the fastest time) and figure that out. It was a fun thing. And the rest of the day – the whole rest of the day – was really, really stressful and uncomfortable.

Awareness and concern for mental health is still relatively new in elite sports.

The world is only just beginning to know the types of concerns that the people they encourage or counter address and how widespread these issues can be.

Her mother, Eileen, who is also a coach, sees Mikaela’s experience up close as they race the ski circuit together.

“I haven’t been the perfect ‘model-parent-coach’, and I’m still trying to find the balance. I could sometimes lose sight of the most important thing – Mikaela’s mental and physical well-being and happiness – amid the chaos of a season, when it seemed like the most important thing was just to do the work,” Eileen previously wrote. in an email. “It’s taken a blast a season for both of us to reevaluate what we’re doing. At those times I think it’s important that I be her mother because that’s what makes me realize that I pushed too hard and she’s not thriving so we have to reset and let her be happy.

NBC Chicago

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