Shiffrin Talks Weight of the Olympics, Pain and Loss, and Finding Joy on the Mountain
In a recent interview with Barry Svrluga and the Washington Post, two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Mikaela Shiffrin discussed the Olympics and the weight and pressure of it all—which she has described as an "Olympic Demogorgon"—the loss of her father and the associated grief, and the joy she has found once again on the mountain.
The Olympics are a dream and the Olympics are a nightmare. Mikaela Shiffrin knows both the euphoria and the angst. If only there were a way to explain it.
She thought for a second.
“Have you seen ‘Stranger Things’?” Shiffrin asked during a FaceTime conversation last month.
Um, what does this have to do with the Olympics?
“Well, the monster in ‘Stranger Things’ is called the Demogorgon,” Shiffrin said. “It’s like the Demogorgon is trying to pound in on your house and your brain and everything. You’re trying your best to keep it out and keep away from that pressure, because it’s a really, really uncomfortable place to be.”
This is not science fiction. This is real Olympian life. Shiffrin is entering a World Cup alpine ski season that begins this weekend in Soelden, Austria. It will include her third Olympics, this one in February in Beijing. She is 26 and won gold at each of her previous Games — in the slalom as an 18-year-old in Sochi, Russia; and in the giant slalom four years later in PyeongChang, South Korea, where she added a silver in the alpine combined. Win one medal in China, and she’ll match Julia Mancuso as the most decorated American woman ski racer. Win three — a distinct possibility, if not an expectation — and she’ll match Janica Kostelic of Croatia and Anja Parson of Sweden with the most Olympic medals of any women on the slopes.
She also shared her new love and relationship with Norwegian skier and 2020 FIS Ski World Cup Overall Champion Aleksander Aamodt Kilde. Kilde also shared his admiration for Shiffrin,
Around December, she began talking regularly with Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, a Norwegian skier who won the World Cup overall title in 2020. They had met perhaps six years earlier on the globe-trotting ski circuit, on which the women and men race simultaneously at the same site only occasionally. Their chats intensified as 2021 dawned. By June, they were Instagram official as a couple, posting workout videos together, walking the red carpet at the ESPYs together, vacationing in Maui together.
“Having somebody in her life like Aleks, it’s like a medicine,” Eileen said. “It’s like a salve. It’s just so good to have something positive — really, really positive — going on. It’s just nice to feel like you can laugh again.”
There is the obvious commonality in their pursuits, which is to be the best skier on the planet. But there is also a both a kinship off the mountain — “We don’t have to talk about skiing,” Kilde said — as well as a respect.
“I admire her, to be honest,” Kilde, 29, said by phone from Austria. “It’s kind of weird to say that about your girlfriend. But it’s quite impressive what she’s doing. She’s doing something that I want to be doing, too. I can learn from her.”