© 2024
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Gold Medal Skier Greets Fans In Pittsfield

Jim Levulis

Olympic gold medal skier Mikaela Shiffrin was in Pittsfield, Massachusetts Wednesday meeting fans and ski enthusiasts.

Matthew Shields was just one in the line of people twisted around the confines of Plaine’s Bike, Ski & Snowboard shop and out the door.

“Can you sign this, a postcard and my arm?” Shields asked Shiffrin, who obliged.  

They were all there to meet, take a picture with and have gear or apparently a body part signed by Shiffrin. At February’s Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, Shiffrin, then 18, became the youngest Olympic slalom gold medalist in history. 

“The whole thing was just really incredible,” Shiffrin said. “It was such an eye opening experience and also really humbling. It made me crave this time in places like this where it’s a little bit of a smaller town. Home time. Family time.”

Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, grew up in Lanesborough, Massachusetts and family still lives in the area. Born in Colorado, Mikaela skied Jiminy Peak and the Mount Greylock Ski Club when visiting relatives.

“It was so nice to be at small mountains where you can loop on the same chairlift and take a thousand runs,” Shiffrin said. “You’re not confused about where you’re trying to go, how to get back and if it’s going to take an hour to get back or 30 minutes? You know and you can just ski all day.”

Eileen Shiffrin came up with the idea of giving fans the chance to meet her daughter at Plaine’s shop.

“I’m psyched to see the turnout because it sort of proved what I’ve said all these years that in this particular area there is a huge amount of really healthy enthusiasm for skiing,” said Eileen Shiffrin.

And local ski enthusiasts certainly went out of their way for a chance to meet the gold medalist.

“She’s late for soccer for you,” one father said as his daughter got Shiffrin’s signature.

Shop owner Mitch Plaine has been running his business in Pittsfield for 40 years. He says Eileen Shiffrin reached out to him just a day before asking if he could host the event. Plaine says he’s never seen all his customers in the store at one time…especially on a 55 degree spring day.

“She’s really a worldwide celebrity not just a local celebrity and we’re just lucky to have her here,” Plaine said. “She’s just a wonderful person. She’s not only a gold medal athlete, but also just a good advocate for the sport and a good role model for kids.”

Mikaela Shiffrin says she finds it nearly impossible to believe when people her age tell her she’s an idol.

“It's really refreshing when kids just say ‘I’m a ski racer and you’re inspiring’ and that’s it,” Shiffrin said.  “It’s not like ‘I’m you’re biggest fan’ or ‘You’re from a different world, it’s just the results you’ve had are inspiring.’ “That makes me want to keep inspiring people.”

Seventeen-year-old Emily Martin skis for Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington and hopes to continue racing with a club team at college next year.

“It just makes all of us, my fellow racers that are my age and myself think how much we could do,” Martin said. “It’s inspiring to see someone so young be so successful on such a competitive circuit.”

Shiffrin’s mother says watching her daughter’s gold medal run in Sochi wasn’t as nerve-wracking as one might think because Mikaela was suffering from a cold. 

“We were just hoping that she could actually go and ski even close to her ability,” Eileen Shiffrin said. “Just trying to give her enough Tylenol, Motrin and Gatorade to get her through the race.”

Jim is WAMC’s Assistant News Director and hosts WAMC's flagship news programs: Midday Magazine, Northeast Report and Northeast Report Late Edition. Email: jlevulis@wamc.org
Related Content