Skiing and Tennis Collide: Shiffrin Talks Psychology, Pressure, and Legacy with Swiatek
Recently, on Instagram Live, two-time Olympic champion and six-time world champion Mikaela Shiffrin caught up with Polish professional tennis player and 2020 French Open champion Iga Swiatek. The two, who are 2021 Laureus Sport Award nominees—Swiatek for Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year and Shiffrin for Laureus World Comeback of the Year—talked about everything from psychology to pressure and the topic of legacy.
Back in February, 19-year-old Swiatek had told Tennis Channel that Shiffrin was a role model for her in terms of competitive resilience, so this interview proved an opportunity to learn even more from the 26-year-old. Since then, the two have been in touch on social media. The IG Live conversation turned the heads of many in the sport world, including the Women's Tennis Association (WTA).
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Shiffrin has also experienced the unique feeling of being a teenage champion. The American remains the youngest slalom champion in Olympic alpine skiing history, having won gold in the discipline at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics when she was 18 years old. She was thus in the perfect position to dole out wise words as Swiatek's Roland Garros title defence approaches.
"I don't know how I'm going to react," Swiatek said. "I've never been in a situation like that, even at a normal tournament, so I think we're going to be prepared for anything and we're just going to adjust. Everybody's going to have expectations so you just have to be in your own world."
Shiffrin's advice was to focus on the positives.
"The way people talk about it is like almost as if it's some negative thing," she said. "That it's like a big thunderstorm that's coming and it's going to be so difficult to handle. I said, I don't know, why don't we just be happy about it? Because it's a really great position to be in. Any question you get, if it's positive, then just go with it. But if it's ever trying to put pressure on you... change it in your mind, just to think what a cool position I'm in to be a defending champion already in my career."
Laureus World Sports Award winners will be announced on May 6th. A specialist panel of over 1,000 sports journalists is invited to select Laureus nominees each year, with the winners selected by the legendary Members of the Laureus World Sports Academy.