When the Sochi Olympics begin our best chance for gold on the mountain may be from a woman not named Vonn. Her name is Mikaela Shiffrin. And while the 18 year-old can ski with the best of them, it is her story that separates her from the pack. Unlike many Olympians that have spent a lifetime training and racing, Shiffrin didn’t race much as a kid. Instead she honed her skills by practicing and not racing. First she practiced at a small hill near her childhood home and then at Burke Academy, in Vermont just south of Canada, or basically off of the grid. Her focused approach–sans the annoying distractions and hype–have made her one of our country’s best hopes for gold in February. Matthew Futterman explains Mikaela’s rise here in The Wall Street Journal.
Behind her meteoric rise is a strategy that might surprise those parents who schlep their children from mountain to mountain every weekend in search of glory on the junior ski-racing circuit: As a kid, Shiffrin didn’t race much.
While other junior skiers were playing videogames in the back of the family Subaru, Shiffrin was playing outside, zigzagging five hours a day on her home mountain, mastering the near-perfect balance with which she blasts through five dozen sets of slalom gates down icy hills.
Her train-at-home strategy stands apart in a competition-obsessed culture that subjects young soccer players to 100 games a year and budding golfers to every-weekend tournaments.
“I think it’s misguided, particularly for young kids,” said Jeff Shiffrin, Mikaela’s father, an anesthesiologist who helped craft his daughter’s training and development regimen with his wife, Eileen. “And in skiing, the risk of injury is so high that trying to perform at a level you’ve never practiced at is asking for a trip to the O.R.”