Mikaela Shiffrin is one wise teenage skier. At just 19, she's somehow managed to taste fame—becoming the youngest athlete in history to win an Olympic slalom gold medal and a veritable Olympic darling in the process—and yet recalibrate to what really matters. Shiffrin, who in 2013 became the first U.S. slalom World Cup champion in 30 years, balances intense pressure and training in both slalom and giant slalom events, time with friends and family, world travel, and, well, life. Somehow she keeps coming out on top—with a cheeky grin and wisdom beyond her years. We caught up with Shiffrin, who calls Vail, Colorado, home, about how she's adjusting after Olympic gold.
How would you sum up the feeling of winning an Olympic gold medal in one sentence?
Winning gold in Sochi brought all of my best dreams to life, but this time the dream didn't disappear when I woke up.
You have done big things at a very young age. How do you stay grounded?
My family and coaches keep everything in perspective for me. It's pretty easy to let my head float into the clouds—they always remind me that there is another step to take, and get me to refocus on the task at hand.
What was the coolest non-skiing adventure you had during “off season"?
Going to the ESPYs this year was so cool. Having two days to experience that "LA" lifestyle that you hear about was really fun, and I love getting dressed up, so that was a huge bonus. But every time I go on a "non-skiing" adventure, it just gets me more excited to get back to skiing and normalcy.
Where are you most excited to ski next and why?
I am really excited to ski at the World Championships in Beaver Creek [Colorado] this year. I think the courses at Beaver Creek are my favorite on the World Cup, and the women don't normally race World Cups there, so I'm really excited to race on that hill, and of course to race another World Championships.
You strike me as an old soul. If you had to start skiing all over again, what advice would you give yourself?
I'm not sure I would tell myself anything different. I've had great opportunities and amazing support my entire career. I don't feel like I needed to know anything extra at any point in time. Everything has happened the way it was supposed to.
What does an Olympic skier’s training diet look like? And what are a couple of your favorite “splurge” items?
I have to be aware of what I eat—lean meats, pasta (Barilla, of course, it's the best pasta out there), a lot of vegetables and salad, eggs, bread, pretty simple things. I make sure to get enough protein and carbs every day, and I try not to take in more calories than I burn on the hill or in the gym. Keep it balanced. My favorite splurge items are probably chocolate, gummy bears, popcorn, and chocolate chip cookies!
What are your favorite local hangouts in your hometown of Vail?
I love to go to the movie theater Cinebistro whenever I can. They have huge fluffy seats and in-theater dining with amazing food. It's such a fun, relaxing atmosphere, and I especially love to go after I've had a tough workout so I can really enjoy sinking in to the seat and sitting still for a couple hours.
What ski competitors do you look up to most? Who are you closest to and why?
I look up to a bunch of skiers, men and women. My favorite racer of all time is probably Bode Miller, but mostly I just appreciate awesome, fast skiing. I'm pretty good friends with everyone—they're all friendly and I've never felt any hostility. Veronika Zuzulova has taken me under her wing, in a sense. I mostly see her at races, but she has always been especially nice and helpful if I've ever needed anything.
What’s something quirky people might not know about you?
I don't know if this counts as quirky, but I really like to braid hair. I love trying to come up with different hairstyles and cut my brother's hair quite often. Also, I like to eat Wheaties with orange juice instead of milk sometimes.
You had great parenting and access to sports growing up. What advice do you have for young wannabe ski racers who may not have the same advantages?
My favorite piece of advice is to use the resources you have. A lot of people barely use half of the resources that they do have. For instance, most people don't even know about the Winning World Cup Runs DVDs that the U.S. Ski Team sells every year. They're a collaboration of all of the fastest ski runs during the season for every race, and it's organized by event. Those DVDs are probably my most exhausted resource, and even if a young racer doesn't have access to the biggest mountain or the newest skis, watching World Cup is extremely beneficial and a great way to get started.
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