KILLINGTON, Vt. – Mikaela Shiffrin, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, took first place in a new season of successful ski racing, winning once and finishing second and third in her other two races.
But this year, for the first time in her career, Shiffrin did not have her mother, Eileen Shiffrin, constantly by her side as head coach and travel partner for most of the year. For the past seven years, the two have been a rare and very chronic combination that has produced unprecedented historical results in a dangerous sport. This season, Eileen stepped away from her role as head coach on the hill to stay at home in Colorado, a decision Mikaela and Eileen said was mutually supported by discussions following the recent death of Eileen's mother Pauline Condron.
"We sat and talked a lot about family and being home, and we are very sorry," said Shiffrin, 24, on Friday night at the Killington resort, where she was preparing for two World Cup races this weekend. “We felt it was important for her to return to her life. But it is not easy for any of us. "
In a telephone interview on Saturday after her daughter finished third in a giant World Cup slalom race, Eileen Shiffrin said the death of her 98-year-old mother led her to reevaluate some of her priorities. and responsibilities.
"There are other people in our family that I have to pay attention to," said Eileen, mentioning her husband, Jeff, and son, Taylor. “People are not around forever. And it will be good for Mikaela to learn to train more without her being around. She also has an entire team already installed.
For several years, Mikaela Shiffrin has also had two full-time ski team coaches in the United States, Mike Day and Jeff Lackie, who have worked closely with Eileen Shiffrin, a former ski athlete who has been training Mikaela since she was three. .
The Shiffrins planned and tried to reduce Eileen's role in recent years. There were expected to be separations that would last, including a discreet test in 2015. But that year, when Shiffrin participated in a World Cup race in Sweden and broke a knee ligament while training before the event, Eileen was back on her travels. . party after Mikaela returned to the races. The two have been traveling the World Cup circuit together since 2012, when Mikaela became a regular on tour at the age of 16. Mikaela won the first of her 61 World Cup races that season and is now the three-time World Cup general, apparently on her way to breaking all Alpine racing records.
"People asked me, 'What's your secret?' Well, it's my mother. Isn't it obvious?" Mikaela said on Friday. "She was the advantage I had that no one else had, and she gave me that advantage over everyone else. But I felt like I couldn't ask her to do that anymore. "
Both Shiffrins referred to the change as a transition, and Mikaela said she was especially relieved when she won a slalom last weekend in Levi, Finland, without her mother there to train her on the hill.
"It was a great relief, because this is the first victory at the World Cup, at the Olympics or at the world championship in which she is not present," said Mikaela. “It was a test, and obviously I had a good race and I could do what I needed to stay focused.
"And even if she's not here with me every step of the way, we're still at FaceTiming every night and talking about skiing. It's just different."
Eileen, who hopes to visit Mikaela during some European races next month, predicted that the "ups and downs" of the new deal would lead "Mikaela out stronger on the other side of it."
"I would not judge things based on wins, but more on how I learn to do some of those things for me, which is also very important," she said. "It will be a process."
On Saturday, Eileen watched the giant slalom race at the Killington resort of the stands with her husband. The race was considered an early season rematch in Austria when New Zealand 17-year-old Alice Robinson won a frustrated victory over Shiffrin. But Marta Bassino from Italy won this time; Robinson left the race track early Saturday with about 10 gates left.
At a post-race news conference, Shiffrin smiled and said, “I enjoyed it today. And I'm really looking forward to tomorrow. "
The World Cup tour continues on Sunday with a slalom, Shiffrin's specialty.