Pyeongchang 2018

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Mikaela Shiffrin: five things about the sleepy, smiling skiing sensation

SOELDEN, AUSTRIA - OCTOBER 28: Mikaela Shiffrin of USA in action during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Giant Slalom on October 28, 2017 in Soelden, Austria. (Photo by Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images)

Mikaela Shiffrin burst onto the World Cup scene when most girls of her age were immersed in school. At PyeongChang 2018 the American skier has the chance to be one of the stars…

Teen sensation

She has broken all manner of youth records. She was the youngest American ski racer to claim a national alpine crown when she achieved the feat in slalom just after celebrating her 16th birthday in 2011. She is also the youngest slalom champion in Olympic history, having achieved the feat at Sochi 2014 aged 18 and 345 days.

Puzzling pre-race tactics

Shiffrin likes to prepare for her races in slightly unorthodox fashion. Like her peers, it is not uncommon for her to visualise the run that lies ahead of her. But so relaxed is she beforehand that it is not unusual for her to take a nap just before a competition, while her other way of keeping calm before a big race is to do wordsearch puzzles.

A fear of clowns

Shiffrin may have the persona of being fearless on the slopes but has her fair share of phobias off the slopes. The 22-year-old makes no secret of the fact she does not like spiders but she has a fear of clowns that verges on an actual hatred.

Tinkling the ivories

She started playing the piano at the age of five, about the same time she hit the slopes, and has said that tinkling the ivories is one of the first things she likes to do when she gets home from a training camp or World Cup race. One of the pianists she adores is Ludovico Einaudi, an Italian composer. Away from the piano, she likes to listen to a variety of music ranging from Daft Punk to Taylor Swift.

The smiling assassin

Her social media posts highlight quite how much time she spends in the gym both during the season and in the off-season, ranging from explosive workouts to cycling. But her favourite exercise away from skiing is sprinting – a pastime she describes as “liberating”. During her sessions, she says that the key is to smile, an approach she adopts in the rest of her life. As she explains: “Smiling releases endorphins in your brain that actually make you feel happier.”


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