A.B.F.T.T.B. “Always be faster than the boys.” The creed by which Mikaela Shiffrin lives her life.
These are the words that motivated Shiffrin to become the youngest ever slalom Olympic gold medallist at Sochi 2014. The letters emblazened on the back of her helmet.
Now the story of how Shiffrin found the phrase which inspired her to greatness will be shared with a Super Bowl audience.
The 22-year-old stars in one of five NBC films celebrating “Best of U.S.” athletes ahead of PyeongChang 2018 (for which NBC are host broadcasters in the United States).
The tale involves a young Shiffrin meeting former U.S Olympic skier Heidi Voekler at an autograph session.
Incredibly, it was a spur of the moment decision by Voekler that changed Shiffrin’s life forever.
“It was a cute little girl who came up to a poster signing session with a big smile,” three-time Olympian Voekler revealed to the Olympic Channel.
“It’s not something I ever write or have written before. It was the one time.”
Voekler’s one-time act clearly had an everlasting impact on Shiffrin. Words that changed her life forever.
On course for greatness
Shiffrin’s determination to be the best is highlighted in the advert, which also stars Voekler re-enacting her inspiring gesture all those years ago. Something Voekler takes quiet satisfaction from.
“To know that I’ve made her maybe motivated to ski faster than the boys… because if you can ski faster than the boys you are going to be pretty good!”
Shiffrin is more than just pretty good. Already on course to become the great women’s ski racer of a generation.
The American is a wholly dominant force in the slalom and rapidly becoming one in the giant slalom and speed races.
She is just the second racer in history to record 41 World Cup wins before turning 23 and could potentially win five gold medals in PyeongChang.
But it hasn’t all been a smooth run to the top of the proverbial mountain.
Uphill struggles as well as downhills
At the start of 2017 the pressure to win became a challenge. The wins kept on coming but the mental toll it was taking on her young shoulders was beginning to tell. Anxiety kicked in hard.
Shiffrin was feeling physically ill before every race and was scared that she would disappoint everyone.
It is perhaps unsurprising therefore that her salvation came on the snow. After a rigorous preseason training regime (including a few sessions with a sports psychologist) she felt confident enough to expand her skiing repertoire outside of her traditionally strongest events, the slaloms.
She instead started to take on the less technical, but much faster downhill and Super G disciplines. With her relative inexperience compared to the rest of the field, the pressure and the expectations on her were reduced. She was free again.
Inevitably the benefits of this new lease didn’t take long to show results. In Shiffrin’s second downhill race she won.
Shaun White Super Bowl
Another athlete featuring in Sunday’s Super Bowl commercials will be double Olympic snowboarding champion Shaun White.
Come the end of February Shiffrin may find herself well on the way to overtaking the boarding legend’s gold medal tally and prove once again, that she can outperform the boys.