The privilege that the first Olympic ski champion, the German Christel Cranz, appreciated most was the dinner to which Adolf Hitler invited her. She was Germany 1936. The skier was a fervent militant of the Nazi party and in 1941, when she withdrew from the competition, she donated her skis and all her equipment for the propaganda campaign of the invasion of the Soviet Union of the nazi army. She is also the skier who has won the most medals in world championships, 15, a figure that has not yet been reached by the American Mikaela Shiffrin, the best skier in history, winner of 87 World Cup events, more than anyone else ever. , skier or skier.
To celebrate it, and he is doing it this week in Andorra, where the final events of the World Cup are being held, Shiffrin, who turned 28 on Monday, has not demanded any privilege, but has taken advantage of his throne to proclaim a kind of feminist manifesto. This is how Shiffrin defines herself as a woman with a mission, who has already achieved a lot, but who, convinced of her need, is now going to work to ensure that women coaches have more objectives to fight for, and think that everything, even the most unlikely, possible.
“Everyone asks me what mark I want to leave in the last years of my career,” said the skier from Vail (Colorado), who a month ago fired Mike Day, the coach who had trained her for the last seven years. “The choice of a new coach has seemed like a very important matter to me, and I have thought about it a lot. I have chosen Karin Harjo, who was already part of my team for certain details between 2015 and 2021, because she is one of the most skilled technicians I have ever worked with. But I want her to be the boss of my coaches not only for that, but, above all, because I want the focus to fall more and more on female coaches, so that it is known that they exist ”.
With Harjo, Shiffrin closes a 100% feminine circle around her, her closest environment. Her mother, Eileen, 63, a proficient skier in her youth and also a coach, and a registered nurse, has been with her since she entered the World Cup circuit as a 16-year-old in 2011. Her physiotherapist is also a woman, Regan Dewhirst, and has been on her team for five years; and its head of press, spokesperson and public relations, is Megan Harrod, a former skier who also manages the affairs of Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, Shiffrin’s partner and winner of the crystal globe downhill. Both celebrated how good their season has been on Wednesday night and part of Thursday morning at the after ski further cool from Andorra, at the Soldeu station. A few hours later, Shiffrin played the final of the super-giant, a speed discipline that is not his best test. She won the half-Swiss Lara Gut from Granada, with which she won the crystal globe of the specialty.
Shiffrin took it as a training for the slalom and the giant of the weekend, the tests in which she has already been proclaimed, she has obtained the balloon this season, apart from the great balloon of the final general, and finished 14th. If she wins both events, she would end the season with 15 wins, two fewer than her best year of 2019, but she would already reach 89 total, just 11 shy of the magic figure of 100.
In none of these latest successes has Karin Harjo, currently head coach of the Canada team, been by her side, the second woman to lead a team and one of only eight women coaches at the highest level of skiing, where male coaches there are hundreds. “I wasn’t going to fire Mike Day, who I really enjoyed working with for seven years,” says Shiffrin. “But when I found out that Karin wanted to leave the Canadian team and return to the United States, I told myself that this was an opportunity that she could not pass up.”
It is not the first time that Harjo feels like a pioneer who opens new paths for other women. In 2016 she became the first woman to design a World Cup slalom event, a task monopolized by men for both men’s and women’s races.
Since then, two more women have begun to carry out the task. “The fact that Mikaela has chosen me means a great advance for the women, not only for me,” she says in The New York Times the coach, who will begin her work with the champion in April, with long sessions to test material in Norway. “You can’t ignore the impact that the news will have among my colleagues, who will be able to say, ‘well, if Karin could, I can too.’ It is an action that has a lot of strength, which says that this is a viable path”.
Karin Harjo has never been a professional skier. Twenty-three years ago, when she graduated in molecular biology, she started working in a laboratory at the University of Washington. Soon after, she shocked everyone, and her father, Norwegian missionaries in Tokyo when she was born, by saying that she was leaving the lab to become a ski instructor. “It was the classic, ‘I’m going to take a gap year and then I’ll be right back,’” she explains. “But you never know how you start a career. And here I am, so much time later, working on what is my passion and with an opportunity one could only dream of…”
A couple of years later, people start to see Shiffrin with another look as well. When she refused to attend the medal ceremony in which she would receive gold at the 2021 World Cup, the press spoke of “a princess whim.” She now remembers that she actually did it to protest that the act had been delayed several hours so as not to interfere with the development of the male supergiant.
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