Hundreds of locals turn out to celebrate the newly crowned GOAT, who gets a real goat and a statewide holiday in her name
By Shauna Farnell
VAIL, Colo. – Hundreds of fans poured into Vail to honor hometown hero Mikaela Shiffrin following her record-breaking 2022-23 season. During this season, she notably became the winningest alpine ski racer of all time, notching a total of 88 career World Cup wins.
The Colorado native followed a marching band along a path of 88 stars, each highlighting the time and location of every Shiffrin World Cup victory, to a stage in Vail Village. There, Shiffrin was showered with praise and gifts from local and statewide politicians, officials and fellow athletes. She received belt buckles, framed photos, a town sign, a manhole cover bearing her name, and an actual live goat to indicate Greatest Of All Time. Governor Jared Polis declared March 11th “Mikaela Shiffrin Day” in Colorado, the day Shiffrin broke the World Cup record with her 87 wins.
Thanking her fans
Shiffrin, rarely tearful, became visibly emotional several times during the proceedings.
“The support that I get from Colorado, from this valley, from home – that’s something that drives me throughout the season. It has throughout my entire career,” Shiffrin told the audience, many of whom waved American flags and print-outs of her head on a stick. “It has been such a privilege to grow up in this community. After all the traveling I’ve done, I can honestly say this is one of the few places where you get the best of everything. You get the best skiing, the best summer activities, the best people, and the best healthcare. You get the sun. Especially for the kids I see here, I hope you know how privileged you are, how privileged we are to grow up in such a special, strong community.”
Shiffrin said that the Vail Valley community has played a role in her success.
“It’s been an enormous part of my career – 87, 88 – that’s all yours as well. It truly is. Thank you for making it possible for me,” she said.
As for her fans, they ranged from young children clamoring for autographs to long-time locals and visitors of all ages. However, no attendees were more jubilant about honoring Shiffrin and her accomplishments than the young racers who turned out by the dozens.
Fans appreciate Shiffrin
“I think she’s amazing,” said 11-year-old Vail Valley native Sobrie Gagnon, who races for the Buddy Werner League and Ski Club Vail’s development squad. “She’s really inspiring. Her accomplishments are so huge. It’s really inspiring as a young woman. I kind of want to grow up to be like her.”
It’s not just Shiffrin’s racing success that young athletes are drawn to, but her approachability.
“She has inspired me, especially knowing that these amazing athletes aren’t any different than me. They’re normal people who have really trained hard and have shown what you can achieve competing at the World Cup level,” says Ski Club Vail’s Jessica Gorman, 13.
Her older sister, who has been a fan of Shiffrin’s since she began racing as a small child, echoed the sentiment.
“She’s someone who shows me that I can do it, someone who’s put in so much effort to accomplish this amazing goal. It gives me hope for myself,” said Tiffany Gorman, 15.
Adults who were never ski racers or competitive athletes also find inspiration in Shiffrin’s achievements.
“It’s so exciting to see Mikaela shine and be so supported and inspire so many young people,” said Trish Mangold. “She shows that anyone can do it – men and women.”
As for being a role model, Shiffrin pointed out that it’s not just record-breaking athletes who can live up to this role.
“The most beautiful thing is you can choose whomever you want to look up to,” she said. “It can change through the course of your life. You can surround yourself with people and visuals that help you dream, be ambitious, and achieve what you want. It can be anybody and doesn’t have to be somebody who’s won 88 races. It could be your mom, or it could be your grandmother, or it could be your brother. For me, all of those people were such a big part of my motivation, my inspiration. The only way you get there is with a supportive group of people around you that help you stay grounded, help you try harder, help you try the right ways and help you do the things you’re passionate about.”
Next level fanfare
After the race season, Shiffrin spent a few days relaxing on the beach in Mexico. She is only home in the Vail Valley for a few days before returning to work with training camps and Atomic ski testing in Europe.
She continues to reel not only from the success she’s had this season but also from the fanfare, which she said has been unprecedented.
“This season and everything that’s come out of it is unlike anything I’ve experienced,” she said. “Even with Olympic gold, there was not nearly as much interest or excitement, which, to me, is pretty cool – that there’s been that much excitement around a season that didn’t even have the Olympics. That’s really cool for the sport.”
Even though she won’t kick out of the start house again for a few more months, Shiffrin’s heart is still racing from the aftermath of this season.
“I’ve just been riding a really high heart rate over the last month, maybe even the last five months. I’m still waiting for it to come down a little bit,” she said. “Just spending time with family, chilling out – that’s really good. I’m returning to Europe in four days for another camp and ski testing. It doesn’t really stop. I don’t really get time off, but I get time to do other things that help lower my heart rate and bring the calm back into my life.”
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