She had reservations about meeting her idol Roger Federer, but skiing superstar Mikaela Shiffrin says the Swiss tennis great was “better than I could have ever dreamed.”
American Shiffrin and 20-time grand slam champion Federer share a sponsor – a pasta company – and met for the first time last month.
Two-time Olympic champion Shiffrin revealed she is often “disappointed” when public figures fail to live up to expectation in person but says Federer was “the complete opposite.” She was so impressed she even suggested a new hashtag “#BeLikeRoger.”
“Maybe I got him on a good day, but he was kind, he was engaged with every single person that he spoke to,” the 23-year-old skier told CNN’s Alpine Edge.
“He was happy and smiley and easy to talk to. He put the effort in to make it easy. It was so cool for me to see that it’s possible to be an athlete of his caliber and to be more elegant and more generous and nicer than what you expect.
“To see that he can still maintain this mature and modest attitude, I’m like, ‘What is everybody else doing?’”
Shiffrin will kick off her bid for a third straight World Cup overall crown in Soelden, Austria this weekend, while she is also chasing a fourth straight slalom world title at the World Championships in Are, Sweden in February.
With Lindsey Vonn in the twilight of her career and set to retire at the end of the season, Shiffrin is the modern face of women’s ski racing.
Alongside her summer preparation, which included ski training in Chile, Shiffrin earned a spot in Maxim magazine’s Hot 100, traditionally a feature which celebrates physical beauty with the strapline “World’s Sexiest Women.”
But instead of posing in a bikini or evening gown, Shiffrin chose a white ski jacket with her 2018 Olympic medals around her neck.
It was, she says, a very conscious decision that took “a while.”
“I initially thought maybe I shouldn’t do this, it’s not necessarily the right image,” she told CNN’s Christina Macfarlane in a wide-ranging interview in Soelden.
“But I have so much respect for the magazine and how they did it because they totally got it. For them to feel comfortable putting that in the Maxim 100 was incredible.”
Shiffrin appeared in a section named “Power Players” alongside the likes of Meghan Markle, Ivanka and Melania Trump, Kim Kardashian, Amal Clooney and tennis player Caroline Wozniacki.
‘Hot or sexy’
Under the picture she is quoted as saying: “I think the sexiest people are determined, loyal, humble, honest and compassionate.”
“The point for me was to say I’m here and I can be hot or sexy or whatever you want to call me but you don’t objectify me because I’m in a bikini – I’m also pretty awesome based off my success in the sport,” she told CNN.
“And for little girls out there who are growing up and they want to be something more than themselves … like, you’re enough.”
As Shiffrin moves along the fame curve from childhood prodigy coached by her mom to independent woman and global star (she is still coached part-time by her mother), she is becoming more certain about her own image and beliefs. And her growing fame, fueled by an active presence on social media, is giving her a voice.
“This day and age the image of what sexy is, is sort of changing,” she adds. “It’s taking a lot of effort, it’s taking plus-size models and more athletes who walk the red carpet, and for people to see that there’s not just one kind of body type or figure that’s sexy or one kind of face.
“But it takes a while and you still think, ‘I want to look really beautiful tonight – I’m going to put on makeup, I’m going to do my hair.’ The most important thing is that you just stay true to your own idea of what is beautiful.”
Alpine skiing: Looking ahead to a new World Cup season
‘Always another goal’
Shiffrin was the stand out woman’s skier on last season’s World Cup circuit, and she clinched Olympic giant slalom gold and combined silver at the Winter Games in Pyeongchang in February.
She was touted as a contender in five different disciplines ahead of the Games, but the defending slalom champion missed out on a medal completely in slalom amidst a chaotic, weather-hit schedule in South Korea.
She says she has “mixed emotions” about the Games, but says her motivation is as strong as it was when she first joined the circuit seven years ago as a 15-year-old prodigy.
“I never feel like I can settle or be complacent, even with the success I’ve had,” she told CNN.
“It’s not that it’s not enough, it’s just that there’s always another goal. With slalom I always feel I can be faster, with giant slalom, for sure, I can be more consistent. With speed I’m just starting and figuring it out so it’s a new fresh event for me.
“It doesn’t really matter how much success I’ve have - I still feel this motivation. I’m not finished you know.