Connect to share and comment
Despite shooting to the top of World Cup slalom rankings in only her second season, 17-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin is still a girl who won't take herself seriously and just wanted to always beat her brother.
The US star started skiing at the age of three, when her family lived in the ski resort of Vail, but sibling rivalry is what really pushed her into racing.
And it still keeps her going now.
"I basically followed my brother's footsteps, he started out ski racing and I wanted to be like him, so I ski raced and I always wanted to try and beat him," Shiffrin said here as she prepared to compete in her first world championship race.
"Since he's a boy and he's older than I am, I basically changed that into always trying to beat the boys and always trying to beat people who were older than I am.
"That always pushed me," added the American, who recorded her first World Cup win in Are in December and quickly followed this up with further slalom victories in Zagreb and Flachau last month.
"I've always loved racing, I love the feeling of going fast and there's this adrenalin rush that can't be replaced."
"Whenever I lose sight of that, I just think back on those days when I was younger and I was just trying to beat everybody and it brings me back to home."
Still a teenager in many ways -- she posted a picture on Twitter last week of herself doing homework while checking the race results in Schladming -- Shiffrin can still laugh about herself despite her success.
Asked if she considered herself a slalom favourite here, she looked suddenly grave and replied in a mock-serious tone: "Yes, I consider myself a favourite," before bursting into laughter.
A rising star in a US team used to big names like Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller, Ted Ligety and Julia Mancuso, Shiffrin admits she is still "trying to catch up with a lot of girls out there who have 10 years of training on me".
Some of the skiers she says she always looked up to will be at the starting gate this week, including defending slalom silver medallist Kathrin Zettel and if all goes well, reigning champion Marlies Schild, who has been fighting to return from injury to defend her title.
"Throughout this season, I've had three wins and I'm proud of it but I've always felt like there was that piece missing because Marlies, she's the slalom queen," said Shiffrin, who was seven years old when the Austrian won her first World Cup podium.
At her tender age, the American now leads the race for the season's slalom crystal globe ahead of runaway World Cup leader Tina Maze of Slovenia.
But with the US women's slalom hopes riding on her, Shiffrin insists pressure is not something she worries about, describing it merely as a "frame of mind".
"You can make it as hard as you want, but it's just racing."
Her big test will come on Saturday when she tackles the slalom course on the Planai mountain.
"I'm just hoping the crowd will take me down here and I'm really excited to see the big turnout. It's my first big experience."