Mikaela Shiffrin Faces Personal Grief Going Into The Olympics

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Fatima Araos

The upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing will be a bittersweet time for Mikaela Shiffrin as she goes for gold while still grieving a devastating personal loss. The 26-year-old alpine skier is headed to the Games in February – her third after Sochi 2014 and Pyeongchang 2018 – where she’s also hoping for her third gold to add to her slalom and giant slalom wins in her previous two Olympics.

But the Beijing Games may be the hardest one yet for the athlete as she’ll be missing the presence of her father, Jeff Shiffrin.

Unexpected Death

Instagram | Mikaela Shiffrin

On February 3, 2020, Shiffrin announced via Instagram that her father, 65, had died unexpectedly.

“My family is heartbroken beyond comprehension about the unexpected passing of my kindhearted, loving, caring, patient, wonderful father,” her post said. “Our mountains, our ocean, our sunrise, our heart, our soul, our everything. He taught us so many valuable lessons...but above everything else, he taught us the golden rule: be nice, think first. This is something I will carry with me forever.”

Jeff was an anesthesiologist in Vail, Colorado. Local news website Vail Daily said he died of a head injury due to an accident.

Skiing Was A Family Affair

Instagram | Mikaela Shiffrin

The younger Shiffrin, whose parents were both ski racers themselves, fears she might be overcome with emotion while competing in Beijing. Her father had been present in all of her races and provided her with the training she needed to become a world-class athlete. Using his background in science and medicine, he developed workout methods for his daughter, while his wife and Mikaela’s mother, Eileen, acted as her coach.

To the Shiffrins, including her brother Taylor, a University of Denver ski racer, the sport was definitely a family affair.

‘Dad’s Supposed To Be There’

Shutterstock | 163383102

Waves of grief have hit her a number of times in competitions since Jeff’s passing. In an interview, she said, “I was just like, ‘Well, Dad’s supposed to be there, and he’s not.’ I’m sure there will be something like that at the Olympics.”

“It’s still pretty painful to think about, so I don’t think about it too much,” Shiffrin also said. “I imagine there’s going to be some really, really difficult moments. And some of it will also be OK. So it’s like anything in life. With this, the hard moments hit whenever they want. It’s not when you choose to be sad or excited.”

Grief And Healing

Shutterstock | 163383102

It’s been nearly two years since her father passed away, but as Shiffrin’s main coach Mike Day said, “You don’t recover in one year’s time. You don’t recover in 1 1/2 years’ time. It comes at a different pace for everyone, and I think she’s far from finished with the grief and with the healing.”

On January 12, 2022, the gold medalist tweeted a message of gratitude after a win in Austria. She thanked her team “for continuing to pick up my pieces on a daily basis for the last two years.” She acknowledged her Mom’s “strength, love, support” as “the greatest treasure I’ll ever know.”

And she addressed her Dad, “I hope you had a good view.”

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