Seven months after father’s death, Mikaela Shiffrin has a new perspective on skiing


Today, U.S. Ski & Snowboard launched the “Jeff Shiffrin Athlete Resiliency Fund” in honor of Mikaela Shiffrin’s father, who unexpectedly died on February 2, 2020. The fund was created to raise money for U.S. Ski and Snowboard athletes aiming to compete at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. As part of the fund’s launch, Mikaela recorded a video in which she spoke about her father’s death and the importance of resiliency. She also recently sat down for an interview with On Her Turf.

Bansko, Revisited

The last time Mikaela Shiffrin stepped into a start house, the world was very different.

It was January 26, 2020, and the women’s World Cup circuit was in Bansko, Bulgaria, for a weekend of races. Mikaela – a two-time Olympic gold medalist whose early success came in the technical events of slalom and giant slalom – proved yet again that she is a consistent threat in the speed events. She won a downhill that Friday, followed by a super-G victory two days later. With the pair of wins, Mikaela moved even closer to what everyone – including many of her competitors – expected would be her fourth straight overall World Cup title.

That was the mood in the finish area as Mikaela’s team gathered for a celebratory photo at the end of the weekend. As they climbed atop the podium, Mikaela’s father, Jeff, was exactly where anyone would expect him to be: behind the camera, taking the picture.

Earlier this month, Mikaela revisited that January weekend in Bansko, this time through a different lens. She picked up her father’s phone and began looking through the photos and videos he had taken at that final World Cup stop. She laughed at his selfie from the airplane. She saw his excitement at finding a giant Mikaela Shiffrin cardboard cutout at a sporting goods store in downtown Bansko. And she found a video he took in the finish area, capturing the atmosphere of the venue before the race. “When you look at the kinds of things people take pictures of, it’s like taking a peek into what they’re thinking,” she says.

As she watched the moments her father had captured, Mikaela thought about her own perspective at that time. “I was so worried about, ‘I need to make sure I do my recovery,’ or ‘I need to go to bed on time,’ or ‘I can’t stay at dinner too long because I’m here to race.’ When I think what’s the worst thing that can happen in a race, it used to be that I could fall and get hurt,” she explains. As for her perspective on racing now, she says, “It feels directly connected to what is the worst thing that could happen in life? What is so devastating that you almost can’t come back from it? And I feel like I know now.”

The Worst Thing

Following Bansko, Jeff returned home to Colorado, while Mikaela and her mother, Eileen, continued to northern Italy for a few days of training before Mikaela’s next race. In a phone call a few days later, Jeff – an anesthesiologist – was the first person to warn Mikaela and Eileen about the new coronavirus strain that was barely on the periphery of most people’s attention.

Then, on February 1, Mikaela received an urgent call from her brother, Taylor, who said their father had an accident while at the family’s home in Edwards, Colorado. As Mikaela remembers, her mother – who previously worked as an ICU nurse – went into “nurse mode.”

“She was like, ‘Where is he now? What are they doing? Are they going to get him to Denver? What are the next steps?’” Mikaela recalls. “There’s something about emergency workers and first responders – the ability to think in a situation where everyone else’s brain just freaks out – that’s amazing.”

After scrambling to make flight arrangements, Mikaela’s coach, Mike Day, drove Mikaela and Eileen through the night from Italy to Munich, Germany, where they boarded a 10-hour flight to Denver. Before takeoff, Mikaela recalls her father’s doctor telling them, “’We’re going to do everything we can to keep him alive until you get here.’”

When Mikaela and Eileen arrived at the hospital, Jeff was unconscious, his head was bandaged, and he was breathing through a ventilator. Mikaela says she crawled into bed beside her father and moved his arm so that it draped over her body. She stayed there for nine hours.

Jeff passed away later that day, his family at his side.

The Golden Rules

After her father died, Mikaela thought often about a question he posed when she and Taylor were growing up: “What are the golden rules?” to which Mikaela and her brother would reply, “Be nice. Think first.” When Mikaela and Taylor were old enough, Jeff added a third rule: “Have fun.”

“He felt like we could understand that having fun wasn’t just about going and doing whatever you want because it’s instantly gratifying,” Mikaela explained. “Fun is doing something well and the satisfaction you get from sticking to something.”

In February, Day printed Jeff’s three golden rules on stickers, which he gave to Mikaela. She stuck one to her helmet beside another longtime mantra: ABFTTB (“always be faster than the boys”). She plans on skiing with it this season.

Looking Ahead

To use Mikaela’s term, Jeff was “Team Shiffrin Manager.” He anchored the family at home in Colorado, paying bills, figuring out his daughter’s complicated taxes and sponsor contracts, and ensuring that life ran smoothly for Mikaela and Eileen as they trekked across Europe.

On Her Turf logoMuch of Jeff’s unseen work became apparent to Mikaela in recent months, as she and her mother tried to figure out how to handle it on their own. “We’ve been drowning in everything that you have to do after the head of your household passes away and making sure that everything is set for our lives to actually keep going forward,” Mikaela says.

And then, of course, there’s COVID-19.

Mikaela notes that nothing has been normal about her preparation for the upcoming season. She typically spends part of the summer at training camps in the southern hemisphere, usually somewhere in South America or New Zealand. While she’s had a bit of time on her skis – U.S. Ski & Snowboard set up training camps at Copper Mountain in Colorado in May and Mount Hood in Oregon in July – the 25-year-old enters the season with less snow training than she’s ever had before.

Instead, she focused on strength training. In the spring, when it became clear that she wouldn’t go to a normal gym anytime soon, Mikaela did what many athletes did: she ordered workout equipment and set up a home gym in her garage. Her strength trainer, who normally spends part of the summer with her in Colorado, has instead been in Canada, coaching her via FaceTime.

Still, “I think I’m probably stronger than I’ve ever been,” Mikaela says.

Looking ahead to the start of the 2020-21 season, scheduled to start October 17 in Soelden, Austria, Shiffrin hasn’t set many goals. “In the past, I’ve had nerves and anxiety over races, and feeling pressure,” she explains. “That’s innately part of me, the caring and wanting to do a good job. But then, there’s a whole different perspective that I see now.”

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2023 March Madness: Utah Utes engineer dramatic turnaround for third-ever Sweet Sixteen appearance

Members of the Utah Utes celebrate their win over the Princeton Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament.
Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The No. 2-seeded Utah (27-4) women’s basketball team held off a pesky 10th-seeded Princeton squad on Sunday, winning 63-56 to advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Women’s Basketball Championships for the first time since 2005-06 and just the third time in the program’s history.

“I’m proud of our team,” said eighth-year head coach Lynne Roberts after the second-round win at Utah’s Hunstman Center. “We set out to do this a year ago. We lost in this game at University of Texas and the goal was to be able to host (this year) so that we could have that home-court advantage and it made a difference.”

Utah’s fourth-year junior Alissa Pili backed up her recent second-team All-American honor with another 20-plus-point performance, scoring 28 on 8-for 13 shooting with 10 rebounds and going 11-for 13 on free throws. Sophomore forward Jenna Johnson added 15 points and six rebounds.

There’s been a lot of talk this weekend about how the Utes’ previous few seasons have ended – beginning with a rough 14-17 season that was cut short in 2020 due to the pandemic, followed by an abysmal 5-16 record in 2020-21. But the tide turned last year, as Utah rebounded with a 21-12 season that ended with a 78-56 loss to Texas in Austin in the second round of the NCAA tournament one year ago.

So, what changed?

“Last year, everyone was new to the NCAA tournament, so I think everyone was just experiencing it for the first time,” mused Johnson. “Losing in the second round last year, we’re definitely a lot hungrier this year, and then obviously hosting in Salt Lake, it’s fun just being in your own environment, to be around your own fans. I think it gives us an elevated level of confidence, both knowing what it’s like it play in this tournament and also getting to be at home.”

“Yeah, freshman year was kind of rough,” added third-year sophomore Kennady McQueen, who chipped in nine points Sunday. “We did experience losing a lot. … Coach Roberts, she said we are not going to have another season like that. We all stood behind her — the people that stayed — and brought in great people like starting last year with Jenna and Gi (Gianna Kneepkens) and people like that who have had a huge impact in helping us to where we are today. …

“When you get together a group of people that have the same goal in mind and will do make anything to make it happen, I think that’s where we have seen our success rate going up. This past offseason, we just kept getting better, and of course, the addition of the Alissa Pili really helped. When you bring a group of girls that have the same dream and same goal at the end of the year and doesn’t care about personal stats more than winning, I think we get the season that we have today, and it prepares us for deep run in March.”

In particular, McQueen believe it was Utah’s improvement in their defense that was crucial to the turnaround. “Everyone knows how good we are on offense, but if we can’t get stops, it doesn’t matter how good you are on offense,” she said. “So that’s just been a key the whole past off-season and all of this season — just getting better on defense.”

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: Alissa Pili revives her love of basketball with record season at Utah

Roberts credits their defensive improvement with a “philosophical mindset change,” explaining, “We worked on [defense] a lot differently, a lot more intentionally. Strategically we made some changes of how we are going to defend, and I won’t bore you with that. But there was a lot, just different things because you have to play to your strengths. You can’t be a run-and-jump pressing team if you don’t have the depth and athletes to do it. You can’t be a zone team if you are not super big. You have to figure out what fits your personnel, and so that’s what we did.”

There’s also the undeniable impact of Pili, a transfer from USC who has found her stride as a Ute, where she recently was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year.

“She kind of is the straw that stirs the drink for us right now,” said Roberts of the 21-year-old Alaska native. “She’s a nightmare to defend because she can shoot the three, and she’s also really athletic and mobile, so it doesn’t matter who we are playing. I think you have to gameplan for her. But then with her three-point shooting, you know, you have to pick your poison.”

But Roberts also gave plenty of kudos to Johnson, whom she describes as “phenomenal.”

“She’s 19 going on 40,” Roberts said of Johnson. “She’s the most mature, even-keeled consistent player we have. What I love about her is she is who she is. She’s confident in who she is. She knows who she is. She also is incredibly busy off the court.

“We were talking as we were getting ready to watch film, just shooting the breeze a bunch of us, we were talking about movies. And she was like, Oh, I don’t watch movies. Why not? I don’t have time. I get bored. What do you mean you don’t have time? Do you watch shows? No, I don’t ever watch TV. It is because she is doing all of these other extracurricular activities.”

As for guiding to the Utes to becoming a championship program, Roberts still sees it as an uphill battle – but one that she and her players are ready for.

“I always use the analogy of pushing the boulder up the hill,” she said. “And doing things for the first time, you have to have that mindset. You have to keep pushing. It’s been incredibly fun to see the support, and I think the swell is a perfect word for it. Most importantly, our players feel it.

“This is why you play, right? And it means so much. I know I say it over and over, but this is not going to be a flash-in-the-pan [season]. This isn’t going to be a ‘Oh, remember that year they had such an incredible year?’ We are going to keep doing it.”

RELATED: 2023 March Madness 2023 — Updated bracket, scores and schedule for NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship

2023 March Madness: Updated bracket, scores and schedule for NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship


Editor’s note: We’ll keep this page updated, so be sure to check back here for winners, scores and next-round details as the tournament progresses.

The bracket for 2023 NCAA Women’s Basketball Championship is officially set and defending champion South Carolina earned the No. 1 overall seed for the second straight season. A total of 68 teams will see tournament action, beginning with the “First Four” games on Wednesday and Thursday, followed by Round 1 play kicking off on Friday.

On Her Turf has compiled the matchups, sites and schedule for the tournament, which culminates Sunday, April 2 with the title game from American Airlines Center in Dallas.

2023 tournament No. 1 seeds:

  • South Carolina Gamecocks
  • Indiana Hoosiers
  • Virginia Tech Hokies
  • Stanford Cardinal

Last four teams in the tournament:

  • Illinois
  • Mississippi State
  • Purdue
  • St. John’s

First four teams out of the tournament:

  • Columbia
  • Kansas
  • UMass
  • Oregon

RELATED: South Carolina nabs No. 1 overall seed in NCAA women’s basketball tournament

‘First Four’ game schedule

Wednesday, March 15

  • 7 p.m. ET: 11. Illinois vs. 11. Mississippi State (South Bend, Indiana)
    • Winner: Mississippi State, 70-56
  • 9 p.m. ET: 16 Southern U vs. 16 Sacred Heart (Stanford, California)
    • Winner: Sacred Heart, 57-47

Thursday, March 16

  • 7 p.m. ET: 11 Purdue vs. 11 St. John’s (Columbus, Ohio)
    • Winner: St. John’s, 66-64
  • 9 p.m. ET: 16 Tennessee Tech vs. 16 Monmouth (Greenville, S.C.)
    • Winner: Tennessee Tech, 79-69

Bracket, schedule* by region 

*Includes scores, game time and TV network, if available


Columbia, S.C.

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 1. South Carolina 72, 16. Norfolk State 40
    • 8. South Florida 67, 9. Marquette 65
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 1. South Carolina 76, 8. South Florida, 45

Los Angeles, California

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 5. Oklahoma 85, 12. Portland 63
    • 4. UCLA 67, 13. Sacramento State 45
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 4. UCLA vs. 5. Oklahoma, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

South Bend, Indiana

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 6. Creighton 66, 11. Mississippi State 81 (First Four winner)
    • 3. Notre Dame 82, 14. Southern Utah 56
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 3. Notre Dame 53, 11. Mississippi State 48

College Park, Maryland

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 7. Arizona 75, 10. West Virginia 62
    • 2. Maryland 93, 15. Holy Cross 61
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 2. Maryland 77, 7. Arizona 64


Bloomington, Indiana

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 1. Indiana 77, 16. Tennessee Tech 47 (First Four winner)
    • 8. Oklahoma State 61, 9. Miami 62 (FL)
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 1. Indiana vs. 9. Miami, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN2)

Villanova, Pennsylvania

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 5. Washington State 63, 12. FGCU 74
    • 4. Villanova 76, 13. Cleveland State 59
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 12. FGCU vs. 4. Villanova, 7 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Baton Rouge, Louisiana

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 6. Michigan 71, 11. UNLV 59
    • 3. LSU 73, 14. Hawaii 50
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 6. Michigan vs. 3. LSU, 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 7. N.C. State 63, 10. Princeton 64
    • 2. Utah 103, 15. Gardner-Webb 77
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 2. Utah vs. 10. Princeton, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2)


 Blacksburg, Virginia

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 1. Virginia Tech 58, 16. Chattanooga 33
    • 8. Southern California 57, 9. South Dakota State 62
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 1. Virginia Tech 72, South Dakota State, 60

Knoxville, Tennessee

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 5. Iowa State 73, 12. Toledo 80
    • 4. Tennessee 95, 13. Saint Louis 50
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 12. Toledo vs. 4. Tennessee, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)

Columbus, Ohio

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 6. North Carolina 61, 11. St. John’s  59 (First Four winner)
    • 3. Ohio State 80, 14. James Madison 66
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 3. Ohio State vs. 6. North Carolina, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Storrs, Connecticut

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 7. Baylor 78, 10. Alabama 74
    • 2. UConn 95, 15. Vermont 52
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 2. UConn vs. 7. Baylor, 9 p.m. ET (ESPN)


Stanford, California

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 1. Stanford 92, 16. Sacred Heart 49 (First Four winner)
    • 8. Ole Miss 71, 9. Gonzaga 48
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 1. Stanford vs. 8. Ole Miss, 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Austin, Texas 

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 5. Louisville 83, 12. Drake 81
    • 4. Texas 79, 13. East Carolina 40
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 4. Texas vs. 5. Louisville, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Durham, N.C. 

  • Round 1 — Saturday, March 18:
    • 6. Colorado 82, 11. Middle Tennessee State 60
    • 3. Duke 89, 14. Iona 49
  • Round 2 — Monday, March 20:
    • 3. Duke vs. Colorado, 9 p.m. ET (ESPNU)

Iowa City, Iowa 

  • Round 1 — Friday, March 17:
    • 7. Florida State 54, 10. Georgia 66
    • 2. Iowa 95, 15. Southeastern Louisiana 43
  • Round 2 — Sunday, March 19:
    • 2. Iowa 74, 10. Georgia 66

Regionals/Final Four schedule, how to watch

Sweet 16: Friday and Saturday, March 24-25; Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C., host: Southern Conference and Furman; and Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, hosts: Seattle and Seattle Sports Commission

Elite 8: Sunday and Monday, March 26-27; Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville, S.C., host: Southern Conference and Furman; and Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, hosts: Seattle and Seattle Sports Commission

Final 4: Friday, March 31, 7 p.m. ET and 9:30 p.m. ET (ESPN); American Airlines Center, Dallas; hosts: Big 12 Conference and Dallas Sports Commission

Championship Game: Sunday, April 2, 3 p.m. ET (ABC); American Airlines Center, Dallas; hosts: Big 12 Conference and Dallas Sports Commission

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: 2023 March Madness — All about the 32 automatic qualifiers