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Skiing Star Mikaela Shiffrin: Chicken Soup for the Gold

Mikaela Shiffrin has been busy. In less than three months, the 19-year-old downhill skier has won an Olympic gold medal, a U.S. championship, met the president and appeared twice on the cover of a certain sports magazine. Now, with the skiing offseason upon her, Schiffrin finally has a chance to relax, but that doesn’t mean she’ll be stuffing her face. Schiffrin spoke to SI about using food to foster consistency, the difference between in-season and off-season diets and the challenge of staying relevant in non-Olympic years.

On maintaining consistency through food

“Food is the one thing that can be pretty consistent. I can actually enjoy going back to my room and cooking up a box of pasta and having some consistency there versus going and switching foods every time we switch countries … That's what would frustrate me. I like to keep [food] feeling more homey and consistent and that I'm in control.” 

On the zen of cooking

“The process of making [a meal] and knowing what you're putting into this meal will make you feel good about yourself. It just feels good in general. It’s a little bit mesmerizing to me. Just cooking. Cooking is nice.” 

On growing up healthy

“My mom is a nurse, my dad's a doctor. So they are very aware about nutrition, and in general our whole family tries stay on the healthy side. They both, throughout my entire life, ate healthy. Once you start eating healthy it feels better to eat healthy. If I've gone for three weeks without a donut and I eat one tiny little donut hole it gives me a huge stomachache. So I just try to stay with that healthy program and instead of craving junk food, I crave healthy food.” 

On the meal that helped her win gold

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“I was coming down with a little bit of a cold the night before the race. I asked the US Ski Team nutritionist to make me some soup. He made me this awesome chicken broth soup with a ton of veggies and few little noodles and a little bit of chicken. It was probably the best chicken soup I've ever had. It was so good and that was the last thing I ate the night before the race.”

On her off-season diet

“The biggest difference is the portions that I'm eating. Now that I'm not in this intense training program, I'm a little bit lower on the carbs. I’m lower on the protein and eating more salads and veggies, kind of low-calorie foods so I'm not taking in the calories when I’m not expending them.”

On the difficulty of staying in the public eye

“There's this window of opportunity right before, during, and then right after the Olympics to capitalize on whatever I've made out of that gold medal, so that, hopefully, people will take some interest in alpine skiing. And then it's just trying to be a good ambassador for myself and my sponsors and get my name out there a little bit more.”

On feeling insincere in selling yourself

“We just went to the White house and met the president. If I'm tweeting about that, people say, Oh that's really cool, but sometimes you feel almost a little misleading because it's using other famous people to make more of a name for yourself….Then it’s just about balancing the media world and my skiing so I don't forget about the reason that I'm here.” 

Schiffrin is sponsored by Barilla pasta, which is promoting healthy eating through its Share the Table campaign. To that end, Barilla will make a donation to the hunger relief charity Feeding America every time instagram users post a photo with the hashtag #sharethetable.