Mikaela Shiffrin shows why she is a Role Model
The best skiers in the world came to the East coast of the United States and the fans of the sport came out in force. As one of the accredited media photographing the event, it was one of the greatest sporting experiences I have had. And I have had many.
None of us knew what to expect when the AUDI FIS Ski World Cup made their decision to return to Vermont after a 40-year absence. The last time the world came to Vermont was 1978 when Stratton hosted an event. The last time they came to the East coast of America was Waterville Valley, New Hampshire, in 1991. Killington, known as the Beast of the East, spent over a month preparing the snow on Superstar to host the Women’s Giant Slalom and Slalom on November 27th and 28th. The mountain delivered the snow.
The East coast fans were there for hometown favorite Mikaela Shiffrin. With over 16,000 fans in attendance, the athletes were amazed at the volume of the crowd, hearing them cheer at the top of the race course in the starting gate. They had never experienced anything like it. And the World Cup officials have taken notice.
My daughter was one of those fans. Both race days, she and her ski race team members from Blandford Ski Area in Massachusetts arrived at the mountain at 6:30am to claim spaces at the finish line. Mikaela Shiffrin is the ultimate East Coast ski racer, a graduate of Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont. Sunday’s Slalom event was Mikaela’s chance to prove her dominance in the discipline. And she came through. My daughter has been ski racing in Massachusetts for most of her life, and Mikaela Shiffrin proved why she is the greatest athlete for young girls to emulate.
Shiffrin captured her 21st Slalom World Cup victory on Sunday. It was the first time her 95 year old Nana, Pauline Condron, had ever seen her 21-year-old granddaughter ski in a World Cup race. It was overwhelming for the young woman.
“The fact that my nana was able to watch this race is amazing,” said Shiffrin. “I can’t put that into words. The proudest I’ve ever been is winning this race in front of my nana.”
As a photographer documenting the moment, her emotion was amazing to see. You don’t often see an athlete let their guard down so completely. That is when you realize that she is only 21 and the world is watching everything that she is doing. I can’t even imagine. The love she showed to her grandmother was infectious. It transcended the event.
She also sent an amazing message to her young fans.
“I think that role of being an inspiration for younger girls is growing. As more people tell me that I inspire them, I start to inspire myself more as well. I’m not the most confident person—I tend to have a lot of self-doubt, but I’m generally a really happy person.”
“Sometimes these races get to me,” Mikaela said. “I feel like I have to be something special or different or get someone else’s approval—the crowd, the media. Today, I tried to make the choice that I don’t need approval. That’s the message to these young girls that’s more important than my skiing. I ski for myself, not for anybody else.”
But on this weekend in Killington, she was skiing for all of New England. And she proved that she is the best.
See my coverage of the World Cup weekend on SOUTHBROOKLYN.COM