Connect to share and comment

Alpine skiing: Snow teen Shiffrin graduates to world champ

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Already the revelation of the season going into the World Ski Championships, teenage racer Mikaela Shiffrin proved the hype around her was justified by capturing the much-sought-after slalom world title.

The 17-year-old burst on to the scene this winter with three World Cup slalom wins and is on course to win the crystal globe in the discipline.

"It's been 17 years in the making. Everyone says it comes so fast but it seems like it's been forever for me," the young American said after her win.

Mature beyond her years, focused and driven, she has remained cool in the wake of her success, refusing to surrender to outside pressure and preferring to remember why she began skiing in the first place.

"I'm just doing what I do and I don't want to wait," she said.

"The best feeling I can ever get is knowing I'm improving and doing everything I can to be in the moment and do the best I can. I get that when I'm skiing."

Amidst a gruelling racing schedule in the winter, this has meant sacrificing time off to work even harder and perfect her skills.

"I love the beach and I love the warm weather, so I always think if there's time between races where I have two weeks and I could go take a break, that would be so much fun.

"But every time an opportunity comes up, I think I'd rather be skiing, so I just stay back training."

Shiffrin donned her first skis at the age of three in Vail, Colorado, where she grew up, and soon began racing, pushed by her parents and a desire to copy her ski-racing brother.

She left Vail at the age of eight to join Burke Mountain Academy, a private school specialising in ski racing, before making her World Cup debut in March 2011.

Eight months later, she finished eighth in Aspen. In her first ever world championship race on Thursday, she came sixth in the giant slalom and with her slalom gold she is now the third youngest woman to win the world title in that discipline.

"Ever since she was little, she would go until the sun went down," Eileen Shiffrin said of her hard-working daughter.

"She can do a lot of runs. She just keeps going."

With most of the World Cup races held in Europe, this means long months away from home.

But an appartment her mother rents close to the US ski team's European base in Soelden, Austria, provides some refuge where the teenager can have homecooked food and do her homework quietly.

"She brings a piece of home and she keeps me grounded," Shiffrin said of her mother's presence on the circuit.

Years of competing with her older brother have given her a tendency to want to beat anyone older than her, including the men, she said. Ahead of the world championships, she even trained with the Italian men's team.

But the champion, whose happy Twitter updates read like those of any average 17-year-old, is a fan of freeskiing as much as of training drills.

And while she plans on sticking to the technical slalom and giant slalom events for now, she says she might one day try out the speed events too

"I love the feeling of going fast and there's this adrenalin rush that can't be replaced."

In the end, her philosophy is pretty straightforward: "I'm just keeping it simple... it's just going back to the basics and not letting everything distract you. It's just skiing: red and blue gates, a start and a finish.

"The biggest thing is, in whatever you do, take interest in your sport and don't let anything stop you.

"It's kind of a cliche -- just believe you can do anything -- but it's true. I've always believed in myself.

"Don't wait for anything to be handed to you."

ssw/lp/dj

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130216/alpine-skiing-snow-teen-shiffrin-graduates-world-champ