Shiffrin's 2020-21 Journey Featured in USA Today
Two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Mikaela Shiffrin recently caught up with USA Today's Nancy Armour to reflect on the unprecedented 2020-21 season for an article entitled, "Mikaela Shiffrin finds a way through grief after father's sudden death."
In the article, Shiffrin shared just how emotional her first FIS Ski World Cup victory (in Courchevel, France) since her father's passing was,
The tears came even before Mikaela Shiffrin won her first race this past season.
She always takes a nap or meditates between runs and, when she awoke that December day in Courchevel, France, she found herself crying because she could feel what was coming and she knew the flood of emotions it would bring.
It wasn’t that it would be her first win in almost a year. Or that it would come after a back injury she feared would threaten her career. Or that it would be in the midst of a pandemic that had upended her and everyone else’s worlds.
The win, in giant slalom, would be her first victory since the unexpected February 2020 death of her father, Jeff, whose low-key presence loomed large throughout every aspect of the two-time Olympic champion’s life.
They also discussed Shiffrin's involvement with the inception and success of the Jeff Shiffrin Athlete Resiliency Fund, which raised $3,075,000 for all U.S. Ski & Snowboard athletes across all sports.
Shiffrin has always been introspective – and refreshingly open with her thoughts – and plans to spend part of this summer examining what she can do to restore that emotional energy she lost. But she also knows there’s no shortcutting the grieving process, that it’s simply going to take time.
One thing that did help was the response to the Jeff Shiffrin Athlete Resiliency Fund, which raised more than $3 million. As a result, each named U.S. Ski & Snowboard athlete received a one-time payment of $1,300 to help get them through COVID-19.
What began as a way for Shiffrin, her mother and brother to honor Jeff Shiffrin and channel their sorrow soon became a kind of communal therapy. Teammates chimed in with their own experiences and inspirations. People outside the sport reached out to Shiffrin to share their stories and what had helped them.
“I didn’t expect the response to be quite so strong,” Shiffrin said. “Hearing what other people have been through, it helps you gain perspective. It helped me gain perspective.
“It was pretty incredible just to be a part of it,” she added. “It just felt really connected at time we felt so isolated. That was something that brought connection, so that was pretty incredible.”
And it reminded Shiffrin that the human spirit is strong enough to withstand just about anything, even if it seems impossible in the moment.
Based on Shiffrin's recent training at Official Training Sites Squaw Valley and Mammoth Mountain, Calif., the 2021-22 season is going to be very, very exciting. As she says in voiceover on a recent post, "See that doesn't look like a girl who's given up...that looks like a girl who's just getting started."