Over the last three months, I have had the privilege to interviewing and filming Mikaela Shiffrin training at Copper Mountain in Colorado, as well as racing on the World Cup at Killington and at Lake Louise in Canada.
It is hard to put her accomplishments into context. She is outpacing all previous ski racers male or female in overall career victories for her age, surpassing major milestones without blinking an eye and perfecting her craft to a level we may never witness again.
In Lake Louise Shiffrin won her first ever Super G race and hadn’t even trained for Super G within the last four months. In the finish line, she exclaimed, "Today it just felt like I could do anything on my skis. They were an extension of my body, the grip, the glide and line all just fell into place, I didn’t even have to think about it.”
Her victory in the Super G made her the first ski racer ever to win in all six-ski disciplines, which are Slalom, Giant Slalom, Super G, Downhill, Combined, and Parallel Slalom and it was her 46th career World Cup victory moving her into 4th place in the all-time women victory list.
Just a week prior she had been standing on the podium in Killington Vermont where she won the Slalom for the 3rd year in a row at the Killington Cup in front of over 15,000 screaming fans. It was her 18th win in the past 23 World Cup Slaloms.
Bouncing between technical and speed is grueling. For example immediately after the awards ceremony in Lake Louise Shiffrin boarded a helicopter flew to Calgary and embarked on a plane for St. Moritz, Switzerland where she sweeps the following weekend with two more victories one in Super G and one in Parallel Slalom.
Currently, she leads the over FIS Standings with 689 points, 393 points ahead of Michelle Gisin of Switzerland.
Shiffrin is a family affair, her mother coaches her, her father runs logistics and her entourage is a full-time physical trainer, two US Ski Team Coaches, and Atomic ski technician. It’s a tight well-oiled machine looking after a thousand small details that add up to FIS World Cup victories.
Watching Shiffrin train what you see is every cog of the wheel focused on the goal of being the best. There is little small talk or banter. From the moment she gets off the lift at the top to stand in the gate every move is scripted and every action has an intention.
The pacing never changes from run to run, the routine stays the same, the athlete gets off the lift, stretches, equipment is checked coaches slip the course, provide clear points of focus and seconds later Shiffrin explodes out of the gate for yet one more run.
Watching Shiffrin you see grace, grit, and rhythm all working as one. She has another gear when the pressure is on. Winning four out of six ski races three weeks in a row, in three countries and two continents and three different time zones require a heightened sense of self and a focus that words fail to describe.
If you have never watched Shiffrin ski, stop what you are doing and watch. She is a shooting star, a once in a lifetime and her performances are groundbreaking and to watch is to wonder, just how good is she.
Time will tell but as the results show, few have reached her heights and the few that have can only wonder how far higher this phenomenon will climb.