Alpine Skiing

Mikaela Shiffrin's changed perspective heading into new season

Two-time Olympic champ will carry her late father's wisdom with her on her helmet during the new campaign.

By ZK Goh ·

Mikaela Shiffrin says she has a "whole different perspective" heading into the new alpine skiing season.

It will be the first since the death of her father Jeff in February. Shiffrin will race the season with her father's wisdom following her everywhere.

The two-time Olympic champion has added a sticker to her helmet that says "Be nice. Think first. Have fun." – a slogan Jeff, who died after suffering an accident at home, instilled in her and her brother Taylor when they were children.

Shiffrin already has another decal on her helmet that reads "ABFTTB" – "always be faster than the boys" – which she has worn for a few years.

Meanwhile, a new fund dedicated to Jeff has been set up by the sport's American governing body U.S. Ski & Snowboard to help raise money for skiing and snowboard athletes trying to make it to Beijing 2022.

Resilience

Shiffrin hasn't raced competitively since a Super-G win in Bansko, Bulgaria, in January. That was the last time Jeff watched her race in person, flying home to Colorado after that weekend.

At the next World Cup stop in Italy, Shiffrin and her mother Eileen were told of Jeff's accident in a phone call from Taylor at home.

In a video released by U.S. Ski & Snowboard as part of the launch of the new Jeff Shiffrin Athlete Resiliency Fund, Mikaela recalled that she was inconsolable while her mother – a former emergency responder – seemingly remained calm, going into "nurse mode".

"She was like, 'Where is he now? What are they doing? Are they going to get him to Denver? What are the next steps?'" The pair rushed home via Germany to be with Jeff for his final hours.

"There's an image in my mind of what he looked like in the first moment," Mikaela said through tears in the video as she recounted being in the hospital with her father.

"Multiple IVs in each arm, ventilator, bandage around his skull. I got in bed with him, and he wasn't awake and couldn't move, so I put his arm around me. And I stayed there for the next nine hours."

Since then, the younger Shiffrin and her mother have been trying to sort out what Jeff used to do.

"We’ve been drowning in everything that you have to do after the head of your household passes away and making sure that everything is set for our lives to actually keep going forward," she told NBC Sports.

Comeback

By the time Shiffrin felt ready to return to the slopes in March in Åre, Sweden, the coronavirus pandemic had hit. She intended to fly to Scandinavia, but that event was cancelled, as were the World Cup Finals scheduled for Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

The subsequent global health restrictions prevented Shiffrin from training for the new season as she normally would have.

Travel constraints meant that instead of training during the summer in New Zealand or Argentina, where it would be winter, the 25-year-old had to make do with a makeshift home gym working on her strength – her PT coaching her via video call from Canada – and some limited time on American slopes thanks to training camps arranged by U.S. Ski & Snowboard.

Indeed, the continuing limits on travel mean the upcoming season will not have any races in North America, after the sport's governing body FIS decided to organise a solely Europe-based World Cup circuit.

The first race, a giant slalom, is scheduled for 17 October in Sölden, Austria.

Shiffrin says her dad's passing has changed how she will approach the season. She has decided not to set herself too many goals to lessen the pressure on herself she has felt in previous years.

"That’s innately part of me, the caring and wanting to do a good job," she said to NBC.

"But then, there’s a whole different perspective that I see now."

Mikaela SHIFFRIN

United States of America
Alpine Skiing
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Number of medals

3 Olympic medals

2
1

Olympic Games

2 Olympic Games