It was never my goal to share work-related material here, but I felt more connected to this piece personally than I have about others I have written, so I wanted to share here. (Most) Every World Cup and World Championships race day, I write behind-the-scenes notes that I share with journalists, fans, trustees and beyond. It’s something I sort of inherited from my predecessor when I started the gig, and ran with from there to make it my own. It’s usually a scramble in the morning to write these and a jumble of thoughts, but it’s a part of my job that I love. Hope you find some enjoyment in it, too.
Photography Credit: MATS LIND PHOTOGRAPHY
No second thoughts.
No holding back.
Break the chains,
(Mikaela Shiffrin, Instagram Post - August 18, 2014)
There's much to be said for Mikaela's success, and perhaps even more to be said when she doesn't have success (which - to many fans and media means winning, in her case)...but perhaps what people forget - among all of the victories and records being broken - is that Mikaela is a human being (cue music, folks).
At this point, she's kind of in the same boat as Hirscher - damned if you do, damned if you don't. The media (and the rest of us) is running out of superlatives. So, perhaps it's bigger news when Mikaela is not successful. Headlines read "Mikaela with work to do in Giant Slalom..." / "Mikaela can't beat wind or rivals in giant slalom" / "Mikaela Shiffrin settles for bronze medal in GS at World Championship" / "Mikaela Shiffrin pipped to gold as Petra Vlhova wins giant slalom." I am not sure how to convey what Mikaela is doing through words - her level of consistency at such a high quality is something magical. To keep that level of consistency week in and week out is seemingly impossible. And so, even we - at times - take for granted what she's doing and who she is.
These numbers tell a story:
22 races, with 17 podiums, 13 of which were wins…
14 wins if you count World Champs super-G
This season, there's a 77% chance Mikaela will podium, and she's got a 64% chance to win a race she enters. That's across slalom, parallel slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill disciplines this season.
As Brian Pinelli stated on Twitter:
World Cup winning percentage comparison among top racers...
Ingemar Stenmark 86 wins/230 starts - 37.4%
Mikaela Shiffrin 56/151 - 37.1%
Annemarie Moser-Proell 62/174 - 35.6%
Marcel Hirscher 68/238 - 28.6%
Lindsey Vonn 82/395 - 20.75%
When asked by Eurosport if Marcel and Mikaela will beat his 86 World Cup victories record, Stenmark replied without hesitation, "Both of them will break this record and Shiffrin for sure will get 100."
She has done things no one has done before - there is a record to break every day she hits the mountain. And yet, she's only human. Get to know Mikaela, and she's one of the most soft-souled individuals I've ever met. She's kind. She's caring. She's real. So, amidst all of the other stuff - the talk about Mikaela being robotic, a machine, a phenom...let's remember - she is a person. A person who, when she won her first World Cup victory here in Åre on December 20, 2012, met a young girl named Emma Lundell, spent the time with the little 11-year-old suffering from Leukemia, giving her an autograph - and then two years later - was moved to tears when she heard that her "little lucky charm" was healthy and doing well.
Last year, Emma came to see Mikaela hoist up her second consecutive overall globe and fifth slalom globe - and win the slalom by a commanding 1.58 seconds. That day, Emma greeted Mikaela in the finish, and Mikaela gave Emma her globe to hold for pictures, invited her to her victory press conference, and shared the stage with her - giving her her flowers. None of it was for the cameras. Mikaela has done these things many, many times without the cameras and media around. Emma and Mikaela keep in touch, and her mom Annika will bring Emma to today's race to watch Mikaela potentially go down in the record books once again. But perhaps today Mikaela will not only hit the headlines because of what she has or has not done on the mountain - but rather who she is off the mountain: a genuinely good human with a heart of gold.
She's not a stats kind of gal, but we are all about it, right?! So let's look at the run-down for the day:
Mikaela Shiffrin has won the ladies' slalom world title three times, all at the last three world championships.
The only alpine skier, male or female, to have won a specific event four times at the world championships is Christel Cranz: four in the slalom and five in a combination event.
Shiffrin can become the first alpine skier, male or female, to win a specific event at four successive world championships.
Shiffrin and Frida Hansdotter have collected three world championships medals in the ladies' slalom, both at the last three editions. Only Cranz (5), Marielle Goitschel (4) and Šárka Strachová (4) have claimed more.
Shiffrin has won four career gold medals at the world championships, equal to Bode Miller in second-place among US alpine skiers. Only Ted Ligety (5) has won more.
Shiffrin has collected six world championships medals, third-most among US alpine skiers behind Lindsey Vonn (8) and Ligety (7).
Shiffrin has already won two medals at these world championships: gold in the super-G and bronze in the giant slalom.
Shiffrin can join Vonn (2 in 2009) and Andrea Mead-Lawrence (2 in 1952) as the only US women to win multiple world titles at one edition.
Shiffrin can become the second woman to claim a world championships medal in the super-G, giant slalom and slalom in one year, after Mateja Svet in 1987 (giant slalom silver, super-G bronze, slalom bronze).
Again, she doesn't focus on records. So let's dance, shall we?! Yes, let's!
The Associated Press, Like an Angel - Shiffrin Inspired by Cancer Survivor
Coach Jeff Lackie on What Makes Mikaela Shiffrin Different
Alex Azzi, NBC Sports Olympic Talk - "Mikaela Shiffrin could win historic world title, not that she’s keeping track"
Mikaela Shiffrin - Slalom Preview
Men's Giant Slalom Recap - Ligety 11th, Ford 12th
The Scoop/Course Report: It's a bit of a wind-rain mix today - not the most beautiful conditions we've seen here, but alas - we're on the final stretch and today is going to be a good show. I caught up with Jeff Lackie, one of Mikaela's coaches, following inspection and here's what he had to say:
"As we’ve seen over the past couple days of racing, this hill doesn’t offer enough natural challenges to significantly separate the field. In addition, the snow is old and dead which means the athletes will struggle to get any significant rebound from the surface. Despite all this, the course set is good, nice rhythmical swing, with a diagonal corridor that includes a royal flush before the finish pitch. Miki, has had loads of success here in the past with a variety of snow conditions including soft slushy snow like today. Despite how long the course is, you need to ski it like a sprint, every little ‘pitch’ is an opportunity to add momentum."
Women’s Slalom, Åre, Sweden
Start Time: 1st run-11am CET/2nd run-14:30
U.S. Starters: Mikaela Shiffrin (bib 2), Paula Moltzan (21) and Nina O'Brien (41).
Of her six slalom starts in Åre, Mikaela has won four times. Last year at World Cup Finals, by 1.58 seconds. In 2015, by 1.41 seconds. In 2014, by .60 seconds. And, of course - on December 20, 2012 - her very first World Cup victory, by .29 seconds. I'm not sure if you caught that...but in the last two slalom starts she's had on this track, she has won by a combined margin of 2.99 SECONDS (!!). Take that in, folks. Because THAT is insane.
Paula Moltzan, who skis for the University of Vermont, is a Minnesota-born gal with big talent. After being on the team, then off the team, she has shown that the World Cup is where she belongs. This season she's been 17th, 15th, 12th and 16th, respectively. Keep an eye on her today, as she has posted some smokin'-fast runs...including the second-fastest second run in Flachau, Austria - behind someone who you may know - Petra Vlhova. Nina O'Brien has shown strength on the NorAm Cup this season, and has scored her first World Cup points this year in both slalom (23rd, Killington) and giant slalom (26th, Kronplatz). She is currently ranked first in the NorAm Cup overall, slalom, giant slalom, and super-G standings.
Who’s in the hunt: Of course, Petra, Wendy, and Frida will all be contenders today - and watch hometown gal Anna Swenn Larsson, too. The heat is on for ol' Österreich, eh?!Schroeksnadel must be beside himself with this stat: Austria has yet to claim its first medal in a ladies' event at these world championships. The last time Austria failed to collect a world championships medal in a ladies' event was in 1982 in Schladming, Austria. Yikes.
World Championships Slalom - 18.2.2017 - St. Moritz
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (by 1.64 seconds!!)
2. Wendy Holdener (SUI, bib 3 today)
3. Frida Hansdotter (SWE, lucky no. 7)
4. Petra Vlhova (SVK, 6)
5. Sarka Strachova (CZE, retired)
Last Slalom at Åre, Sweden - World Cup Finals - 17.3.2018
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (by 1.58 seconds!!)
2. Wendy Holdener
3. Frida Hansdotter
4. Nina Haver-Loeseth (NOR, out with injury)
5. Bernadette Schild (AUT, bib 5 today)
Women's World Cup Slalom Standings
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (860 points)
2. Petra Vlhova (725)
3. Wendy Holdener (485)
4. Frida Hansdotter (348)
5. Anna Swenn-Larsson (336, bib 4 today)
HOW TO WATCH
All times EST
Saturday, Feb. 16
5:00 a.m. - FIS World Alpine Championships women’s slalom run 1 - Are, SWE - Olympic Channel-TV, OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
7:00 a.m. - FIS World Alpine Championships women’s slalom run 1 - Are, SWE - NBCSN*
8:00 a.m. - FIS World Alpine Championships women’s slalom run 2 - Are, SWE - NBCSN OlympicChannel.com & NBC Sports Gold
1:00 p.m. - FIS World Alpine Championships women’s slalom - Are, SWE - NBC*
All streams are available via desktop (NBCSports.com/Live, NBCSports.com/Gold and OlympicChannel.com) as well as mobile, tablet and connected television platforms. The NBC Sports app, NBC Sports Gold app and Olympic Channel app are available on the iTunes App Store, Google Play, Windows Store, Roku Channel Store, Apple TV and Amazon Fire. Exclusive commercial-free coverage will be available for subscribers of the NBC Sports Gold Pass.
With zip and zang,
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