The Untold Truth Of Olympic Medalist Mikaela Shiffrin

The 2022 Winter Olympic Games are set to begin February 4 in Beijing, China, and slalom skiing champion and Olympic gold medalist Mikaela Shiffrin is going into the games in an enviable position — having just won the World Cup slalom for the 47th time. No other skier has taken first in as many racing competitions in a single discipline, per CBS News. Dubbed by some as "the Face of American skiing," Shiffrin is set to add to this distinction at the Beijing games, according to The New York Times.

As anyone who follows alpine skiing is aware, Mikaela Shiffrin has competed at the highest levels of her sport since she was a teenager. There's a lot more to know about this charismatic young skiing phenom than just what she's accomplished on the slopes, though. From her unusual interests and compelling personal story to her off-the-slopes hobbies, getting to know a bit more about Mikaela Shiffrin will only make her 2022 Olympic performance in alpine skiing that much more thrilling to watch.

The youngest slalom champion in history

Per the official Team USA website, Mikaela Shiffrin was born in 1995 in Vail, Colorado. Skiing from a very young age, Shiffrin was quick to distinguish herself among her fellow competitors. At her debut performance in the 2012 World Cup, she showed signs of quick thinking and resourcefulness when, halfway through her first race, she lost her shin guard, finishing 12th. In her second outing, though, Shiffrin rose to 3rd, per Ski Racing. Shiffrin would not grow used to that 3rd-place finish.

Shiffrin has won more medals than any other U.S. alpine skier (two golds and a silver, per the official Olympics site). According to the Team USA website, she has repeatedly finished first at the FIS World Cup and won several gold medals in the World Championships. Rounding out her resume, are many more 2nd- and 3rd-place finishes at the world's most prestigious skiing events. Perhaps most notably, though, Mikaela Shiffrin is the youngest skier of any gender to win 50 World Cup races. And she did it by the time she was only 23, per US Ski and Snowboard.

She has unusual pets

Everyone knows some of the world's most fascinating athletes can have some pretty eccentric tastes — it kind of goes hand-in-hand with all that talent. So what kind of a pet, for instance, does a world champion alpine skier have? In the case of Mikaela Shiffrin, if you answered reindeer, you'd be correct. Kept at a ranch in Finland, Mikaela Shiffrin is the proud parent of four reindeer named Rudolph, Sven, and Mr. Gru. Her most recent addition to the herd is Ingemar, according to NPR affiliate KPCW. Shiffrin didn't exactly choose to become a reindeer stepmom but it's still a happy development. That's because whenever the World Cup is held in Levi, Finland (as it was in 2019), the champion gets a living, breathing reindeer to call their very own.

Referring to the unusual prize, Lara Carlton, representing U.S. Ski and Snowboard said, "Some World Cups have different prizes; I believe there's one in Austria where you get a cow," Carlton continued. "Reindeer are a big part of culture up there in terms of labor and modes of transportation with all the snow. So, it's just something fun to add to that event," per KPCW. For her part, Shiffrin loves the award. "It's a really cool prize," she said, according to Reuters.

She cares about the environment

A graduate of Burke Mountain Academy, a private college-preparatory school located in East Burke, Vermont, Mikaela Shiffrin has many interests and passions beyond just alpine skiing. Most notably, science-related topics such as marine biology and environmental science, as the champion athlete revealed to Learning Lift Off. "I like science a lot," she said. "I see myself doing marine biology or environmental science. Or maybe medicine."

This concern for the natural world also gives Shiffrin pause, reflecting on the carbon footprint created while traveling to those far-flung corners of the globe for skiing competitions. As she recently told NBC Sports. "I actually struggle with the fact that this sport requires so much travel. I feel like there's going to be a point in my career where I maybe stop just because ... I can't be taking this travel for granted and contributing so much to our global carbon footprint," she said.

She's multi-talented

As well as academic topics Mikaela Shiffrin finds fascinating, she also has a number of interesting hobbies and pastimes, ranging from music to juggling. Per Chicago Reader, Shiffrin is distantly related to the acclaimed Argentinian composer, Lalo Shiffrin, and is also musical, playing guitar, piano, and singing, according to US Ski and Snowboard. She's also physically gifted in other domains, playing tennis, windsurfing, and even juggling while riding a unicycle.

As she recalled to The New York Times, Shiffrin learned to juggle and ride a unicycle as a training method for skiing, focusing on better balance and improved coordination. "We started going around our block, which was 2 miles long, riding the unicycle and juggling at the same time," she said. Her mother, Eileen Shiffrin also said, "You would see the neighbors coming out to watch the Shiffrins going around the block juggling on a unicycle. I'm sure they thought we were completely nuts."

She almost gave up after her dad died

Mikaela Shiffrin will compete at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games with a heavy heart. In 2020 Shiffrin's father, Jeff Shiffrin (pictured above), died unexpectedly at the age of 65, according to Vail Daily. According to 9 News, an NBC affiliate, the elder Shiffrin died in an "accident in his Colorado home."  The Jeff Shiffrin Athlete Resiliency Fund, established in his honor, has raised millions to support athletes during the COVID-19 pandemic. As Shiffrin said, "My dad loved all sports. He just loved to see the work that athletes put into it, and the success they have from that work" (via 9 News).

According to Today, Shiffrin considered giving up her sport after the death of her father. "There was a really long time that I didn't really feel like it was worth it to care about anything," she said, "so it seemed like I'm not going to go ski race again because the most fundamental thing of an athlete is that you have to care about your sport and you have to care about doing well at your sport, and I just didn't." Fans of the Olympics and alpine skiing alike are glad Shiffrin reconsidered, and she'll take to the slopes at least one more time in Beijing, China for the 2022 Winter Olympic Games.