Looking back at my favorite picture of Mikaela Shiffrin from the Killington Cup in 2017, I wanted to share this poignant moment once more.

Thanksgiving weekend 2021 was strange. COVID killed last year’s race, and this year’s race was cut way back by the organizing committee, not allowing any media but the majors to apply for credentials. I made the hard decision not to attend. I love this event and hope that we will be able to get back to normal in the future.

So this year found me watching it on television and seeing the first day cut off abruptly by a blizzard and the second day, seeing Mikaela make another spectacular showing with her fifth-consecutive slalom victory on Superstar. (Watch the video below. It was so fun watching her win again!)

She is the GOAT of this sport and the best role model out there.

Mikaela Shiffrin hugs her Nana after winning the slalom at the AUDI FIS Ski World Cup Slalom at Killington. Pauline Condron, the 95-year-old grandmother of the Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin, had never seen her 21-year-old granddaughterski in a World Cup race until Sunday.©Mark D Phillips
Mikaela Shiffrin cries as she hugs her Nana after winning the slalom at the AUDI FIS Ski World Cup Slalom at Killington. Pauline Condron, the 95-year-old grandmother of the Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin, watched the race for the second time at KIllington in 2017.

None of us knew what to expect when the AUDI FIS Ski World Cup made their decision to return to Vermont in 2016 after a 40-year absence. The last time the world came to Vermont was 1978 when Stratton hosted the men’s World Cup. Killington, known as the Beast of the East, spent over a month preparing the snow on Superstar to host the Women’s Giant Slalom and Slalom. The mountain delivered the snow.

The East coast fans were there for hometown favorite Mikaela Shiffrin. With over 16,000 fans in attendance, the athletes were amazed at the volume of the crowd, hearing them cheer at the top of the race course in the starting gate. They had never experienced anything like it.

Shiffrin captured her 21st Slalom World Cup victory on Sunday, November 27, 2016. It was the first time her 95 year old Nana, Pauline Condron, had ever seen her 21-year-old granddaughter ski in a World Cup race. It was overwhelming for the young woman.

“The fact that my nana was able to watch this race is amazing,” said Shiffrin. “I can’t put that into words. The proudest I’ve ever been is winning this race in front of my nana.”

They both returned for the 2017 Killington Cup and the emotion was just as strong for Mikaela. The moment she shed tears as her Nana smiled with her, I almost lost it myself as I witnessed and captured the moment between them, so personal and so public. I fell in love with them both. It really was an image that I will always remember.

As a photographer documenting the moment, her emotion was amazing to see. You don’t often see an athlete let their guard down so completely. That is when you realize that she is only in her 20s and the world is watching everything that she is doing. I can’t even imagine. The love she showed to her grandmother was infectious. It transcended the event.
She also sent an amazing message to her young fans.
“I think that role of being an inspiration for younger girls is growing. As more people tell me that I inspire them, I start to inspire myself more as well. I’m not the most confident person—I tend to have a lot of self-doubt, but I’m generally a really happy person.”
“Sometimes these races get to me,” Mikaela said. “I feel like I have to be something special or different or get someone else’s approval—the crowd, the media. Today, I tried to make the choice that I don’t need approval. That’s the message to these young girls that’s more important than my skiing. I ski for myself, not for anybody else.”
But on this weekend in Killington, she was skiing for all of New England. And she proved that she is the best.

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