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Our show today is sponsored by Beast Brands, makers of premium organic hair, body wash lotions and skincare products. All these formulas are vegan, cruelty free and made in the USA. Go to get these dotcom WSC to get 20 percent off your soon to be favorite products. That's where I started to think about this idea of difference between expectations and standards and keeping my standards of my skiing and my plan really, really high, but not ever having any expectations for what was going to happen.
And that whole season, it was like one thing after the other. And somehow that mentality was like it was so freeing.
Welcome to the Just One sports podcast where we talk to the biggest athletes in the world, the untold stories behind their success. I'm Kelly O'Hara and my guest today is Mikaela Shiffrin. McKayla is one of the most dominant athletes in the world today. A three time overall World Cup champion alpine skier McKayla has won two Olympic gold and an Olympic silver. She has 66 World Cup wins. And in twenty nineteen, she put down one of the greatest individual seasons of all time, winning a record 17 World Cup races while becoming the first year to ever win the overall super giant slalom.
And so World Cup titles all in a single year. That's about as close to perfection as you'll see in sports. McKayla, welcome to the show, thank you. Thanks for getting on. How are you doing? I'm doing all right. Just living life, right?
For sure. For sure. Where are we finding you today? I'm at home in Colorado. I'm actually about to travel to Mt. Hood, Oregon, for ski camp.
Cool ski camp. Yeah, it's going to be interesting. Mt. Hood is kind of a place where most American kids who want to ski racers or who are ski racers, like almost all of us, have gone there. At some point. It's a snow field on a volcano. Skiing on Mt. Hood is one of the coolest things to see when you're flying in to Portland. I've never ski trip into the mountain, but I've just seen it from afar and it just looks so cool.
Yeah, it's super cool. And that's for national team. Yeah. So we're kind of trying to get like whatever we can now while there's sort of snow in some places in the US. Yeah, for sure. For sure. Well, let's go back to the beginning. You come from a skiing family. Both your parents raised, your brother raised. Do you feel like you're always destined to be a skier? Like, how did you get into the world of skiing?
Your parents threw you in there.
What happened? They just tossed me in. Both my parents ski like I was born in Vail, Colorado. So obviously a very wintery place, great mountains, great skiing. And it started as just a family kind of recreational sport. And when I was around six years old, I guess I think my brother had done some races and I always watched him like, oh, that's so cool.
I want to be like him. So I started in the race program here and it was really basic, but I kind of got a really great group of friends out of that. And I guess it kind of blossomed. But I always felt like just something that we all did together, like playing board games or something, like we'd go skiing. And from there I just kept wanting to get faster and somehow found myself where I am now, which is still sometimes hard to believe.
But I'm sure of the career that you had has been incredible. So as a kid, you get into skiing, you're doing it for fun. You watch your brother and you're like, I want to do that too. I want to compete. I want to race. I want to get faster. What is the progression look like as a kid moving into learning how to become a ski racer while there's so many different ways to do it?
One of the things that I get frustrated by, because ski racing is definitely not the biggest sport in the US, but in Europe, like the national sport, the ski racing is huge, like Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Germany. So we're kind of like over here in the US, like we have probably more access to better athletes and better skiers, but we don't know how to get them to up the pipeline. And if we could just get access to that, then we would totally crush the other nations.
But we're holding our own for sure. But probably like any other sport, as you get faster, you go from different age groups of like levels of races. And then once you're 16 years old, you get your first license, which is the International Federation, and that's when you can start really racing internationally. And once you're like legal to raise fists are old enough to raise fists, then you're technically old enough to raise World Cup. So at that point, you're ranked against the top skiers in the world.
And there's this whole fist point system that literally you can go on the website and look up like, where am I compared to Mikaela Shiffrin? Or for me it was where am I compared to like Lindsey Vonn or Mark Shield? And you can kind of see how when you get faster, as you score better points in more races, then you start climbing up the ranks and all of a sudden if you get close to 30, then you're sort of right on the cusp of like qualifying to race in World Cups.
And yeah, it's a crash course in the greater landscape of professional skiing because a lot of people don't understand, like even with us, with national team and club and all that stuff, it's complex. And if you're a casual fan, you would understand. So at what point did you go from this is family fun to I want to be competitive. At what age do you think you were? I guess I was always competitive.
Nice. Like I always wanted to win more than anything. I always wanted to be faster than the boys I was. I to say, where you competitive with your brother? Yes, very much so. But I wanted to be him. But I also wanted to beat him totally. I really loved it when, like, if I beat the boys on my team, they'd be like, Oh man, you got checked in like whatever got checked. That was the turn of the tournament.
You got sick. I've never heard of it.
But skiing, once you get to a certain age, the genders are separated. And I feel like very good reason for that. But I still to this day, I love training with the guys or next to them. I love watching them. I love. Seeing what they put into their craft or how they work and how they train and the precision they bring into it, and that definitely pushes my limit. But back when I was younger, we raced together and I don't think they liked it.
They probably did it. And now they look back and they're like, OK, I'll give myself a pass because you turn into the person that you are and the the champion that you are.
So they're probably just like it was meant to be. Maybe that's possible.
I'm sure you checked a lot of people. Well, I'm sure you did.
So, OK, you're out there checking the guys. And at what point did you realize I have to like I have this X factor. I want to be the best I could possibly be.
I think like kind of with the competitiveness my goal as a little girl was I want to be the best in the world. And I had no idea what that meant. But it was just whatever it means to be the best in the world, like that's what I want. What age, though? Probably do my six year old really that young? Yeah.
Bodie Miller was my all time favorite ski racer, and I don't really remember watching the Olympics at that age, but I remember like being aware of ski racing, obviously loving skiing. It was such a big part of my life. Work is still. But and I remember watching like video of the World Cup skiers with my parents and my brother and I had all my favorite racers. Bodie was probably like the biggest No. One. And I always just thought, like, he's the best in the world.
I want to be the best in the world. So that's where that inspiration came from. But then as I worked my way up the ranks like that tiered system progression, I tried to describe it, did a good job.
I just kind of kept going. And I was always really motivated. I always wanted to, like, put in my best effort, did the drills and the fundamental work, and had really amazing support from, like all the coaches that I worked with going through the years. I feel like they all had a really similar philosophy. So every time I moved on from one coach to a new coach, it would work like it meshed together. And then my parents were always very involved and my mom still choose the one coach who's remained consistent.
She my dad taught me how to ski and she's still teaching me how to ski. That's so cool.
But it's like all the philosophies, all the mentality is gived really well. So that was a huge part of it and it kind of allowed me to I guess, bloom at every step of the way and then like flash forward to when I was just starting racing the World Cup. My first race was when I was 15. I had told my dad when I was like nine years old. I like how old can I raise the World Cup, like what's the youngest?
I could race my first World Cup. And he said, well, technically fifteen years old. And he went through the whole thing that I just tried to.
Yeah. And I was like, I don't care about any of that. Just tell me. And he said, fifteen. I was like, well that's what I'm doing. So I raised my first World Cup two days before I turned 16 and I was like, yes, big goal complete. But like, that's just the first step. And we kind of have to keep moving now or whatever.
And that was probably one of my first experiences of like World Cup skiing and thinking like I really want to do this. I was always serious about it, but now I want to be a World Cup ski racer versus maybe going the NCAA route or any other numerous routes there could be. And then I won my first World Cup two seasons later. And I think that was the moment when I was actually pretty good when you won your first World Cup race, because you never know, right, until it actually happens, you don't know that it's going to happen totally.
And you're hopeful. But until you get into the arena or on the hill, you're not sure how you're going to stack up against the other athletes, because I feel like that was probably abnormal for you to be racing. You're allowed to when you're 15 and you're like, ding, ding, ding, 15, I'm entering these races. So at that point, you're racing against people much older than you and. You were able to be successful like you won your first World Cup race when you were 16, 17, which is incredible.
So you attended Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont. Do you feel like those years? Got you ready for. Being at that level at such an early age, yeah, for sure.
The main course I had for most of my years at Bourke, he was a huge proponent of practice and training and sometimes would hold me back from races in order to give me more time to work on the fundamentals. Because when you're racing, you get two runs and maybe like a warm up run on another trail, you're just frisking. So you're really not getting anything out of that day besides racing and your result. But when you're training, you're getting nine to 15 runs and you actually get that repetitive practice.
So as long as I was in a good position there, then he was like, let's not go to that race and train at Bourke. Not everyone bought into that because as a competitor, you want to compete. As I say, people are so concerned with their standings, they want to get to the top. But, yeah, it makes sense as to how if he was, he put an emphasis on on the fundamentals. And those were probably the layers that you built early on in your career.
Yeah, skiing is really difficult to build up any true practice. We'll ski every single day for five to six hours, but the amount of time you're actually skiing is only about seven minutes because the rest of the time you're on the chairlift or you're doing your warm up or you're standing at the top waiting for your other teammates to go. So the more runs you can get, it's not like playing tennis where you're literally hitting the ball every second for sure.
It's very nice. Yeah, you have to be super precise. And most kids don't get that at a young enough age. So they kind of don't take as good advantage or as much advantage of those sort of formative and fundamental building years. And then later they start to realize, oh, you know, this is important, but it's when you're like nine to 13 years old where you can really get ahead with like you can get so many more miles than your competitors because they just don't do that math.
And somewhere along the lines, like my parents kind of did that math, but really my coach at Berzerk did that math and he was like, this makes more sense for you to train. And I just love to train. Like I fell in love with skiing. Maybe not as much for the races, but more for just the training. I love to ski around gates, but racing is kind of a part of the deal, so we'll just have got to do it.
Why would you just prefer to, like, ski around Gates as opposed to actually race? Like, you just love the experience of flying down the mountain.
Yeah, I love the feeling like I played a little bit of soccer, not probably enough to really relate to you on any level, but it was sort of like. This moment where like think back to when you were younger, when you actually strike the ball the right way and you're totally wow, that felt so good. And with skiing, it's like turn after turn when you do it well, it's like pressing the gas pedal to the floor on the highway in your car and like the acceleration, you feel it's like insane and you can feel that on your skis and you're like, there's no gas, there's no like you or me and my skis.
And I'm controlling this ridiculous and almost like what should be an uncontrollable force. And it's like mind blowing and it's so much fun. But in races, you're always worried. Well, for me at least, I'm always like, well, where am I in the standings? And, you know, if I'm leading the overall World Cup, then I obviously want to ski fast, but I want to make sure that I protect those points. So they're always kind of protecting a little bit.
And then so I'm always skiing, like a little bit more within myself. But then in training, it's like really free, like breaking the chain. I think that's kind of why that's so cool. What's it like to go fast? Because your face just lights up and. Are you an adrenaline junkie or is it just skiing?
No, I like the feeling of adrenaline, but not with everything, but with the things that I can control. Like I'm kind of a control freak. Also a little bit of adrenaline junkie. And those two things don't really go together. So it's a little bit of a balance. But skiing like it's something I've done for forever. And because I put so much emphasis on training and the fundamentals and the things that help to control what really should not be controlled, like it feels slightly less risky or actually it doesn't feel less risky, but it is less risky.
So I take more of a conservative, more prepared approach than maybe some other racers who are the full on adrenaline junkie, like they just want to go and go as fast as they can.
And I'm like, I want to go as fast as I can, but as long as I know how fast it going, I want to limit the broken bones that happened.
Let's just let's just be real here. I don't want the bad parts. I only want the good. Totally. Do you feel like that has actually helped you be more successful in your career compared to some other competitors?
Maybe not more successful, but it's helped me stay more injury free and allows you to be consistent. Yeah, sometimes I think I miss opportunities at races where other athletes are willing to like, risk more. And it works out because, you know, you're still dealing with the best in the world. And every single time we get on the slopes, we're taking these risks. And sometimes it's a balance of like, oh, well, I really hope that this works.
But every time you practice that, you're also practicing making recoveries and practicing the risk and like walking that type rope a little bit. And I haven't always gotten to the point where, like, I stepped onto that tightrope, but I have been in the past more in my comfort zone. I've had some injuries, but I haven't had any really major surgeries, nothing that's really lingered. And that's a huge part of that is because I've been a little more conservative.
And if I feel like I'm not sure that I'm probably not going to do it. And the one time that I felt like I'm not sure, but I'm just going to throw down anyway, I got hurt and I was like, well, I'm not going to do that again.
That's a hard, hard lesson to learn. We have fun, not fun.
So you basically were a teenage prodigy. You won a World Cup race at seventeen. You're competing against people much older than you and you're talking about how you love to train because it's freer. You can just enjoy and not worry about the pressure of racing your standings. That's our thing. How did you evolve your mentality as one of the best skiers in the world dealing with the pressure at such a young age? So I sometimes I think it's almost easier when you're younger.
I used to say, like, I don't feel pressure at all. I don't get nervous when I was younger, before I started racing World Cups, I literally didn't get nervous from races.
And my friends or teammates would be like bent out of shape, totally bent out of shape. Even my brother would get really, really worked up for races. And I was like, I have some homework I need to do. So I be like at the start sitting like waiting for my turn to race and like reading my book. And then my friends are like, oh, that's a good idea. Maybe that'll keep me from being nervous and nobody had really seen that before, or I take naps at the start or something.
I don't do homework anymore. I still take naps sometimes. And that's like it's like a calming, meditative thing almost. But over the years I started to get more nervous and I started to feel more pressure. Maybe that comes with age and awareness of what's going on. Definitely with social media. You see it more to when you see what people comment and you see how happy people are when you have success. But at the same time, there's always like the negative comment.
And then you see how sad or angry people get when you don't have success and they say, oh, you got distracted or you you need to do this or that or something's wrong when you're like, hi, I'm just me.
If you don't have, like, the greatest success that people expect you to have, then the excuse is, oh, they're just a human.
And so many times, as some people have said and like articles been written, whatever, like McElligott Tacon reminds us, she's just human. I'm guessing the one hand you could sort of take it as a compliment. Right. But on the other hand, you're like, what are we teaching our kids like that? The goal is to to win so much that people think you're not a human. Like, I don't want to be not a human. I want to I am a human.
Like, I'd prefer to stay human total. So what's the message we're sending here? Well, you've obviously been able to rein in the stress, like the pressure, and I totally feel you on all those things. Can I ask you questions on this, too?
Sure. OK, so as far as pressure goes, skiing is an individual sport. When you feel pressure with your teammate and you have a leading role in your team as well, how do you imagine that changes? Like how do I handle pressure when you need to just look like you have it all under control? Like everything you need to like boss people around and be like this is what you're supposed to do, even though I have no idea what I'm doing.
But that's just me that you probably know what you're doing. No, I think for me, through the years, I've learned how to how to handle pressure. And it's not to say that I don't get nervous and I don't have baby panic attacks and like mental breakdowns and inside. But I've been in so many positions where I have not been successful because I allowed my mental game to be out of my control and thus control me and how I performed.
And it just like you said, it kind of comes with experience. You just learn mentality is a skill. It's something that you can learn. So even this last World Cup, like I was so stressed the whole time because I because you don't want to mess up, don't want to lose, you're like on your walking like a knife's edge and at any point you could lose control and dreams are over. So but it's just figuring out how to kind of like I said, walk that tightrope of not allowing the pressure to overwhelm you, but kind of propel you.
And it seems like that's how you have approached things as well.
Did you still feel love for the sport during the World Cup, like during those times? You know what I mean? I felt love during the Games last World Cup. I was like, man, I need to remember that. Like, this isn't very fun, but I enjoyed it from the moment I got onto the bus to go to the game, walk into the locker room, out on the field, you're like, oh, I live for these moments.
Like you do, like racing down the hill. But the moments in between, I obviously enjoyed myself. And it's about the journey. It's not necessarily about just the end product, but I did love them. It's not to say that it's like rainbows and butterflies on the field. You're stressing the whole time. But OK, so I want to talk about Olympics. Twenty fourteen. How old are you going into. Twenty four. Olympics. Eighteen, eighteen.
So you've already won World Cups as a teenager.
You're favored to win. The slalom, you go in to this Olympics and you are in the lead after the first run and then the second you nearly fell and actually went on and watched your second run before we got on here. And it just reminds me how much I love watching ski racing, because it's just it's wild. Like, it's literally propelling yourself. It's like just. Yeah, but how did you recover? What did you feel in that moment?
I think probably one of the best things that happened to me in Sochi was that after the giant slalom race, those two days before the race, we raced the giant slalom in the rain.
And it was just like kind of a nasty day. And I had missed the podium by two tenths of a second. Giant slalom was not even my thing then. And I was thinking, oh, my gosh, I'm so close to a medal in the event that I wasn't even supposed to be. But then I got sick, really, really sick. And the solemn race I. Was like an Advil and just trying to pretty much sleep whenever I could during the day.
Wow. But when it was time to actually race, one thing that's really great about skiing is that it's 60 second intervals. So no matter how tired or secure, it can be a really, really big mental battle. But you almost always have enough energy to pull that out. It's just like trying to time it right. Because if you waste your energy worrying about it during the day, then you won't be able to do it. And also with the Olympics, because of TV schedules, normally we have about three hours between first and second run and there's a night race and there was five hours between both runs.
There's five hours between your first and second run. Yeah. So I was thinking, well, I don't know, I feel terrible, but I would probably be OK for 60 seconds. And I got through the first run and obviously it was OK.
All right. What do we do with all this time? Well, let's take a nap. So what a weird thing.
Like you have to get so hyped for 60 seconds and then completely shut it off. Yeah, it's really two different games or races and it's funky because they set a different course for each run. So you inspect the first run, you have forty five minutes or something to inspect the first run, memorize it, visualize it in your head saeki the first run and then they reset the course and it's a completely different thing so we inspect it again. So in those five hours there's like things to do.
You have to to prepare like yeah you have to go back around and maybe take a couple more warmup runs and keep your kind of feeling sharp and then go back to the top of the mountain and inspect the course and then take a good chunk of time and visualize the course. So I was trying to be as quick as possible with all that stuff and then sleeping and then basically taking Advil at the exact right time and then went out for my cigarette.
But once it got through the first, I was like, oh, I could probably do this for 60 more seconds. Is inspections are for people. The casual listener is is that you just going through slowly? Is that you like you have to slide sideways down the hill. OK, I've seen people do that. Yeah. Yeah. So there's like this moment here, like looking up the hill as a spectator, whatever. And everybody's just like this big group of people is going very, very slowly.
We all inspect at the exact same time. So you've got like other athletes and coaches and everybody like on the hill kind of in your line of vision. I try to literally memorize every inch of the course and visualize it so that I can actually imagine what it's going to feel like when I ski it and do that so many times at once. I'm in the starting gate. I can kind of put that aside.
And when I actually ski because it feels like I've seen it before for sure. So that's the. Yeah, yeah. No, I feel like visualization is a huge aspect of all sports. Yeah. All sports really. But because you have like a fixed course in the sense of gates. Yeah. The course you don't really have the freedom. How much of your preparation is the mental piece of memorizing the course or you just like you get to the top.
You obviously have an idea, but you just go off of feel like when you're actually skiing or racing it, there's definitely a lot of instinct and feeling involved. Like for me, the preparation I get prior to the race makes or breaks whether I'm able to have a confidence to ski it. And inspection is a huge, huge piece. But some of my best races I might have been able to ski without even inspecting. Probably not. Not as well.
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So you hang on and you win gold. What did it feel like? And you're the youngest slalom champion in Olympic history. Did you know that going into it that that was that that would have been a thing?
No, I didn't really know anything about records when they either in the same way, except when people tell you and I know, like, did you know or how nervous are you about that? I wasn't, but now I am. But I always had this thing where I wanted to be the youngest to do stuff I couldn't tell at all.
But your long list of of. Yeah. Of like changes, long list of ages and like everything you did at every young age. Yeah. Crazy.
I was like, oh that's really, really cool. That goes in line with my goal as a little girl to be the youngest to do whatever.
And I mean immediately afterwards people were talking about that and that was really exciting.
I mean, I think the Olympics, you have a moment where you realize that, like, oh, wow, I have the green light. I just won this race and that's an Olympic medal. That's so cool. And Sochi, I don't know what time it is. Most of our races are during the day. Sometimes we have night races. But it was just like, oh, it's a long day. I was like, I can't wait to go to bed.
I want gold medal and I cannot wait to get in bed. Yeah, well, the kind of feeling like I can't wait to, like, cherish this in the way that like a personal like me kind of way. And my parents were there and with my team and like I didn't see my coaches for a week. I saw my parents, but we were our little bubble group probably didn't sleep for three days. And it's all really, really exciting.
And all of a sudden you're like, this is an amazing dream come true. And then you start to speak and it becomes very monotonous. And then all of a sudden you're like, you're speaking the words and your mind is thinking about something very different. And I wouldn't change that experience for the world. And I wouldn't even ask to, like, do less of the post winning like media ceremony or anything, but. It's different than what you expect when you're little and you're like, you win the medal and then you bring it home, you're like, no, no, no, we have a long list of appearances that you have to go participate in.
Yeah, well, it was quite an accomplishment. You have incredible success in your first Olympics, but then that's kind of just the start for you. I feel like because you go on those twenty fourteen, twenty, fifteen, twenty, sixteen, seventeen, twenty, eighteen, you just are racking up World Cup wins. You, you were in the song but then you are ready, which you were the best in. But then you also started doing giant slalom and Super G and having success in that.
Can you explain the difference between the three. Yeah, maybe, yeah, I don't know. OK, well, is it is it easy to do all of them? Are they similar? Now they're very different. It's like one step down from being completely different sports, really. But the difference between the events is the distance between the gates and the speed really, and then the length of the skis with each event, it gets longer. So the gates are closest together and it's anywhere between nine meters to 13 meters.
It's the quickest event, giant slalom. There's a little bit more distance between the Gates phone.
That makes sense, though, that I didn't figure that out for far longer than I care to admit.
So, yeah, Super G, there's like a giant slalom. You're looking at twenty five to thirty meters between the gates. Super G is more like 50 to 60 meters between the gates got at the speeds. All of a sudden if you're in giant slalom you're going about thirty to forty five miles an hour and super G you're going about 65 to 70 miles an hour and then in downhill, there's more space in between the gates and you can get up to like 80 miles an hour.
Wow. Were you proactive about building your repertoire and becoming really good and all of them? So I'm enjoying our technical events and new technique.
I like this girl.
I like the fundamentals. I like the drills. And I feel like being really technically solid. And Solomon was the only reason I was able to move into Super G and then downhill and have success so quickly because I was not really afraid of the speed. I knew that my technique was strong enough to handle it and then actual physical strength was also strong enough. And it's just then it's about learning the pieces and like important pieces of speed. It's almost like in Solman you're kind of playing with gravity to figure out a way to create speed.
And as you go downhill, you're just trying not to fight gravity in any way. And it's a completely different mindset. Interesting. Like most speed skiers don't like to or literally hate skiing, slalom, really. And most skiers don't want to ski speed. It's just not their wheelhouse. Yeah, makes sense. That makes perfect sense. It's kind of like positions on the field, so. Yeah. Yeah. Well so OK, so you have these different events that are very like fundamentals are different.
You go into the twenty eighteen Olympics, your favorite to win slalom, you end up getting fourth. On the flip side, you won gold in giant slalom and silver medal in the combined. Yeah, how was that? And what is combined combined is one run of downhill and then one run of slalom or sometimes is super combined is one of supergiant one a they kind of keep adding events.
It's. It's becoming a thing we're like, we can't just keep making more races. We've got a lot already. Yeah, but anyway, which one's your favorite? I don't have a favorite. I mean, like slalom feels like coming home.
Giant slalom is like my new baby that I, I love like working on it. And I'm still it's probably the hardest event for me, but I love the feeling when something clicks. So it's like maybe more addictive than anything else and then supergiant downhill or just like anything goes.
I mean I think I know what I'm doing, but we'll see. Yeah, but yeah, the South Korea Olympics, there was so much that went on there. Like we talked about Sochi. You know, normally there's three hours between runs and there there was five hours in South Korea. Like when you talk about trying to kind of prepare for something and control the variables you can control and an outdoor sport where no variables can be controlled.
But I have never seen an event where so many things went wrong. Really? Yeah. For everyone.
It wasn't really for everyone because I was the only person who was trying to race in every event and I ended up pulling out of the downhill in the Super G, but I did the training runs in the way it worked out was normally speed races come first, that world championships and Olympic events. But for whatever reason, they decided to put the races first. And I was thinking, that's amazing. I'll get like my bread and butter out of the way and then I'll be able to just kind of have fun with the speed and see what happens.
Yeah, but then the first that first week we're supposed to have a home race and normally they're spread out between like two days in between the we had so much wind that every single day the races kept getting postponed. So the way it went was day one. It was supposed to be giant slalom. First we went up on the hill and we know it's really windy. We've seen the forecast in there. Like we have to try to get the race off, obviously, as the Olympics.
So up there waiting for this supposed to happen at ten and it doesn't happen. But we wait up there until twelve thirty for them to finally say we have to cancel the race. And that had to do with like two times. So the first race was dry and it was canceled. The next day they decided to schedule the slalom. So we have to kind of switch gears and mentally prepare for slalom. The same exact thing happens. So the next day they try to reschedule.
Just this happened like four days in a row and we finally ended up doing the Jags first after going through that like four thirty five a.m. wake ups waiting on the hill, doing nothing until twelve, thirty to one thirty. Every time you're like you're mentally preparing to race but you don't actually race. So then you're still exhausted more mentally and physically and you're looking at the forecast like the wind's not supposed to die down. So that's when like during that period of time, that's when I decided not to raise the Super G.
I was like, I'll just try to raise the combine and see what happens. But I got through the G.S. and I was the only person in that Olympics that was somewhat of a favorite in both giant slalom and slalom. That after the guys, you know, the whole like you go through the medal ceremony, you go through two hours of interviews on the Hill while it's still freezing and then go to drug testing. And we like I didn't get back to our accommodations until nine thirty that night and the sun was the next day.
Oh, wow. Normally you have a day or normally two days to recover.
So and having said all of that, I wasn't feeling very good for the soul. I wasn't feeling very good on the conditions. I wasn't feeling very in touch with my skiing. I felt like I'd worked really hard on guys. And my guess is in a great place and my slalom almost suffered for that. So there's all of these outside variables that you're like, I couldn't have done any better. And then there's you and you're like, what could I have done better?
And I think there's a little bit of both. But when you come in fourth at the Olympics, it's like, I don't know, it was probably a good learning lesson. It used to hurt when people would say that, even bring it up. So I'd be like, you don't know the story, but at the same time, it sucks. I don't know. It sucks, but it's also not the worst thing in the world.
You know, you just want a gold medal the day before. Right. That's an interesting thing. And being individual sports is that like, for instance, with soccer, there's only one I mean, there's three medals up for grabs, but you only have to do it once. But really, you have to win six, seven games. Whereas with skiing, like you have the opportunity to win multiple and you win a goal in one day and then you end up for next.
And I'm like, I don't even know mentally how you. Register all that after the slalom. I feel like there's a different level of exertion skiing for 60 seconds. It's not the hardest thing in the world, but like playing to our soccer game, you're running a lot.
There's a lot going on. There's probably different load between a soccer game and one ski race. I think that was skiing. A lot of the mental exhaustion that comes from competitions is really mental. And it depends like you get to a point and you're physically exhausted, but. More than anything, for me, the races have always been mental. That's probably why I don't love racing so much, because I feel like after a race, my head is socked in like I have a headache.
I can't think anymore. I can't focus on anything. And I just hate that feeling so much like I hate racing. But with the Olympics after all those days and you keep your focus up and keep driving and I was trying to stay positive. I'm like, we're going to race, we're going to race, and then we race and won. And that was exciting. And I thought, well, who knows what's going to happen tomorrow? So I'm better.
I'm going to live this moment up. I enjoyed that part of it. But then comes a long day. I was so like I didn't even care.
And then later I started reading comments and seeing people, people like who didn't know that I'd done anything in the. They didn't know that you had a gold medal in your pocket. No. They just thought, like Mikaela Shiffrin, supposed to win the slalom. So let's let's watch that happen. And then I did it and they're like, oh, she failed our country. I'm like. You're like, oh, hello, you. Yeah, but and so that probably the hardest thing of that Olympics was that was where, like, pressure was one of the hardest things.
I wasn't managing the pressure very well, at least not for the slalom.
And then after the slalom, I was just like feeling like I failed, even though you used it, even though I had the greatest success of my career to date that like the day before. Totally. So it's just it's interesting. But that's part of sport is learning to kind of detach yourself like you have to feel that hurt because that gets you motivation to keep going. But I guess it's been a really long and grueling learning process and it's pretty much never over.
But for sure, you have to learn to like care but not care that you care or something.
Some it's some sort of equation like, yeah, that whole thing. I'm like. Oh, they're just complaining the whole time. Oh, no, I'm proud of it and so excited about it, but it's just sometimes I feel like I want to just tell people, like, do you know, know for sure?
No, it's not complaining like that. It it totally makes sense. That's a funny thing. It's like as athletes, you're like, no, that was amazing. But also there was all of this other stuff that happened and people have no idea, which is why this is great.
I'm proud of my whole team for not literally freaking out and giving up before we even raced. For sure it was it it was an amazing experience, but it wasn't the most joyful time.
But that's also not what you would expect, right? Yeah, that's how I feel about our big international competitions. Like people see us at the World Cup and we win a game. And I'm like, yeah, we win a game. And then we have to we literally get off the field and we enjoy the locker room. And then we're waking up the next morning being like, oh my God, we have to do this six more times to even feel successful.
So now there's so many there's so many elements that go into it.
So, you know, the whole team has this incredible atmosphere around it that's like not can't lose, but almost like we've done the work and we know what we can do and we can't lose in a sense.
And so there's this confidence surrounding it and people get so convinced of that, they're like, well, obviously they're going to win. And then when you look like other athletes, I feel like there were like athletes speckled around the country who are like, no, no, no, that's not how it works.
Yeah, no, they're trying to chamblain it like that. They're freaking out right now. We're just trying to make this happen. Don't take that for granted for sure. I don't know. Now it totally it makes sense because you know what goes into it. But so OK. Twenty, eighteen Olympics. Amazing. But then twenty nineteen season comes and I'm going to read off some of these accomplishments. Seventeen wins the most ever victories in a season ending your third overall season title in a row.
You became the first skier to claim the overall super giant slalom and slalom championships in a single season. You set the record for most career. Slalom wins your baby and you became the first year to ever win a million dollars in prize money. Did anything change after twenty eighteen? What do you think led to all that success? Man, did you change anything in your in your training regimen mentality, do you think it was going through the pressures of the Olympics?
Can you pinpoint anything?
I haven't changed much except for each year. I kind of want to take on a little bit more speed. But that season, one thing I can pinpoint was the first races of the season. I there's a two two giant farms and two sommes races before the first speed races of the season. And I was really looking forward to the speed races because I'd really not done much in speed. And it was like this new world where I can just like learn and almost going back to the beginning where I felt like no pressure situation, no pressure, like just chasing.
I love to chase things. So and the other thing that happened before this was that normally we got some form of training in supergiant downhill before these first races of the season. But the way it worked out, we had a string of really bad weather days. I didn't get a single day in my super G skis before those races for two months. Wow. Yeah.
And it was just kind of a weird mentality, something I had never experienced because I always went like went off of training and preparation would make me successful. And this race is like there's no training or preparation, but I also don't have any expectations and nobody else has any expectations. And it was like the strangest thing because I won that race. It was my first super G win and that was not supposed to happen. But sometimes those races where you're so not distracted by the pressure because there's no reason to be feeling it, that you actually are able to ski well or do it like execute what you would like to.
And that basically set my mind set for the rest of the season is like, OK, that that's where I started to think about this idea of difference between expectations and standards and keeping my standards of my skiing and my plan really, really high, but not ever having any expectations for what was going to happen. And that whole season, it was like one thing after the other. I had some weird back pain, whether it was always bad, wherever we were training.
So the training wasn't great. And every single race people would ask me, like, there's this record or there's this record. I feel like I couldn't tell you what's going to happen. I don't want not only do not want to hear, but like if I were to predict what's going to happen in this race, I'm not going to break that record to that like the stars have not aligned and I'm just going to try to get through this day.
And somehow that mentality was like it was so freeing and it was the most fun I've had in a season ever. And there you go. I mean, that was kind of part of my training, 19, too. I learned, like, the only reason you feel something about something is because you have an expectation for a person or a situation or that sort of thing. And if you can just change your expectation or create your expectation in a way that is going to meet what happens, it's much easier.
But I love that. I think that's I mean, it just shows that I feel like you've as you've progressed through your career. Even though you want to just go out there and have fun and ski like the mental peace has obviously allowed you to continue to be successful and just keep breaking records because of your excelling in that mental aspect, the mentality makes a difference. And also being able to hear like those words, you have to try not to let that kind of stuff go to your head, I guess for sure.
With all of the greatest sports figures out there, you look at them like you look at you or you look at your I mean your entire team or whatever to play on, or you look at Serena or like Federer or all of these.
I mean, Michael Jordan, all these players, there's something so much more than there's like this athletic prowess, the skill set, obviously, like the work ethic and and the effort they put into it. And then there's this thing like, oh, that's in their mind that you like a switch, that you can see them flip and you're like, whoa, totally.
Other people don't have that for sure.
But then. But when but when you're that person, you're like, I don't know if I have it right.
I think that's a healthy way to be. Like, you shouldn't ever feel like you're invincible. I think that's what keeps you ready at all times. But so you touched on this in the beginning. Your mom famously started coaching you when you were three years old. And she's she continued to be your coach and travel partner until last year. How is that? Because I could if my mom or dad were part of my soccer experience every single day, they would not go, well, I love them.
Love you about that.
But I think there's also that's also a big difference with like team sports is you have your all your teammates in this huge support system that's like. You have your sort of immediate people and that group, that circle can't it can't just be, like, enormous. Yeah. Busking inner circle is a little bit smaller, you have your coaches. That's your team. That's your team, your your teammates. But even they're not in the inner inner circle because when you're racing your competitors for sure.
So that's like a different balance. But my parents just they were always involved in, like. They taught me how to ski, like I said, and they taught my brother how to ski and just kind of kept coaching us in one way or the other. And both my parents always had the I guess the philosophy of like do whatever you're doing, do the very best you can. And that just doesn't mean just like try harder. But if you can learn how to do it, if there's a better way to learn how to do it, do that.
I don't know. My mom is like.
The quickest, best learner and also the most motivated learner I've ever known, and like I said, she taught me honesty. She still basically teaching me how to ski, or maybe we're learning together. It's amazing to see somebody who has, like, so much of an open mind for what else is out there and what's possible, whiskey racing and like pulling from other athletes in different sports. She compares the ski turn to a tennis serve or whatever, and all these different ways of explaining things.
That's just it's like almost every single session we have together is its own epiphany. But she's still traveling with me. Last year, she took a little bit of time away because her mom had gotten really sick. And we were sort of thinking maybe you can be home and spend more time with dad. And I hope that she stays with me till the end of my career because I don't know how much longer we're going to go for it. But I'm like, Really?
Yeah, well, you can only go so long, right? Like, I'm twenty five and I feel like I'm starting to fall apart already. Yeah. I'm not, I'm not even old, like I'm still young and I feel sort of fresh, but like there's some moments where I feel like my spine is like in a bag of bones on the floor so and so you just kind of push that as long as you can for sure.
I'm so sorry about your dad. Just I just think I didn't mean to bring that up. No, no, no, no. And I don't if you want to talk about it, you know, I would you're more than welcome to. But I also don't want to talk about anything that you're not ready to. Thanks for saying that.
It's been an interesting process. Like, I don't really know how to explain it, but I don't know. He was our everything man, like our family's rock. He took care. He did everything. He did the taxes for my mom, me. And then like the business of Team Schiffrin, like he was Command Central, and I call them the schedule Lizer, because he was constantly like planning out everything.
And and he he always made sure we were OK. So when he passed away and we came home in season. And I didn't know if I was going to go back to racing or even skiing at all, but were home in February period, and then now we're sitting here with like. Accounts and finances and taxes and like just trying to get a handle on everything and making sure the gas bill is paid and and it's been an amazing learning experience. And to anybody out there, like, don't let yourself be in a position where you don't know what's going on with yourself and you're finding in your world, because not only if something bad happens, the the stress and the terrible feeling you get, but.
Just the feeling like the empowerment that I felt over the last couple of months and just learning.
How everything is working and we still have a long way to go, but between my mom and I, we're like, OK, we might we might be OK. Eventually, he always made sure we were OK. But we're like maybe we can take that into our own hands and just try. And that's that's been a positive during the last couple of months, but. It's also been like so busy that we haven't even like I talk about my dad, it's like he's still here.
Like I still I feel like he's late coming home from work. So that's a different. Like, I think it's only going to get harder to talk about it, but yeah, anyway, I appreciate you talking about it. And again, I'm so sorry. Thanks. We end each podcast with two repeat questions. OK, so first one is they say work hard, get lucky. How much of your success do credit to luck?
I think we kind of control our own luck.
But there's a fair amount of luck involved, like it could be the difference between if the fog rolls in on the course when you're about to go and it's not there for anyone else or. You know, the sun comes out and changes no conditions or something, so there's definitely luck involved, but for the most part. We control our own. With the Asterix exceptions that hit me with the present, oh, OK, are we talking percentage of like career?
What's gotten me to this point? Every experience or like percentage of race wins from.
His career career, OK, that I'd say have been way more lucky like that, probably like a thousand percent luck, because I was lucky to be born to the parents that I have and I was lucky to come across coaches.
I was lucky that my brother was older than I am and like led the way. And I was lucky that all of these things that worked so much out of my control and every step of the way that the way it worked out and the one thing that I did control and where I may be swayed, the luck was that I was always focused and worked hard and I cared about being a good skier, not just like winning races. So that was always like the first thing I was thinking about.
So that maybe guided the luck. But even then, there are so many different paths that can take you away from actually becoming. You know, the Olympic champion or whatever, so career was lots of luck.
So to be thankful for seventy five percent luck. Yeah. Really? Yeah.
Seventy five percent look like work in my country. But they're different.
They're different percentages. There's like all of his luck. But it's also all hard work because without the hard work, the opportunities which can most often be luck, and then you have to take it and do something with it and that propels you to your next lucky opportunity. So it's like this is where percentages are tough because you only get one hundred percent. Right. But if it's like 90 percent luck, but also 90 percent hard work, then how does that work?
Then you become the Olympic and World Cup champion that you are, just that you defy mathematics, you get a whole lot of cake.
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All right, Lasama, you've accomplished so much already. Where do you want to go next and how do you keep pushing?
I think A.S.A. before that, the only thing that's really changed with year to year is like I want to do more races.
I would like to continue to. Race more speed, if it makes sense, but I don't really have, like an end point, feels like I could retire tomorrow and be pretty satisfied. But there's this other part of me that feels like every day I still want to go out for another day of training and figure out that next thing I always feel like there's a little bit more of a break through. I could have. And I don't want to stop until I feel like, all right, I've probably got on Breakthrough's now, like, I don't really want to get any better and I don't know if that ever happens.
But at some point you just feel like this chapter of my life is I'm probably like ready to close it.
And I guess I'm just not ready for that yet. But I'm always thinking that I want to be winning races like I want to be the best in the world for as long as I'm racing. So that's a motivating factor.
But everything else is just like as long as I feel like I want to keep getting better, then I guess I'll keep going.
Yeah, well, this has been amazing. Thank you so much for the time. I feel like I learned so much about skiing and just about you, and I'm excited to enjoy all the interesting.
No, seriously, it's been it's been super educational. You've done so much already and you've been an inspiration to so many. So you should be very proud of yourself for that. And I'm excited to see how far you can go, how many wins you can rack up and cheer you on along the way. So thank you. I think I pretty much say the exact same thing. Also on that note, this episode is done. Thanks so much for listening to the show this week.
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And while you're at it, it also throws a ball on social. It's not just women's sports. Our show is co-produced for Women Sports and integrated a division of John Marshall Media. Big thanks to our executive producers Hayley Rosen, Adrian Glover and Robin Lynn, Jawn Murray and Sydney Sharda. Research Postproduction is by Jen Grossman and Klemperer. Special thanks to Jesse Louis, Sarah Storm and Fire. I'm Kelly O'Hara and you've been listening to the Gentleman Sports Podcast. See you next week.