18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin is the youngest World Champion in U.S. history and an Olympic favorite

In March of last year, just days after turning 18, Mikaela Shiffrin won the women’s World Cup ski slalom and became the youngest champion in 39 years, the youngest World Champion (male or female) in U.S. history, and the first American to win since 1984.

In June, she followed up that accomplishment with another big milestone – graduating high school.

Now Mikaela is preparing for the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, where all eyes will be on her. Though she’s a first-time Olympian, as the world champ she’s a favorite to win and an athlete the whole world will be watching.

Mikaela’s Hard Work and Dedication Pays Off

Mikaela began skiing at the age of two, with the support of her parents, Eileen and Jeff Shiffrin. She competed in her first World Cup at 15 and since then has had a meteoric rise to the top in her sport.

Still, in the true spirit of an Olympian, Mikaela says she owes her success largely to hard work:

I think most of it – especially last season – is based off of hard work. I’m not the most athletic person. I mean, my family is athletic and it’s in my gene pool, but there are a lot of other girls who I’ve raced against who are better athletes – they’re stronger, bigger, faster, scrappier, and mentally tougher. But throughout it all, I stayed on my own course and pushed myself to be the best I could be every day.

Some of that hard work has included unusual training tactics, including she says, practicing balance and coordination by riding a two-mile loop around her home on a unicycle…while juggling. Perhaps if skiing doesn’t work out, she can join the circus!

Of course, Mikaela has other plans to fall back on. Since graduating from elite skiing school Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, Mikaela is still deciding where she’ll attend college, but she does plan to continue her education. I like science a lot, she says. I see myself doing marine biology or environmental science. Or maybe medicine.

Whatever she decides, Mikaela clearly knows the importance of dedication, and has shown she can achieve what she sets her mind to. For now, college decisions will have to wait, at least until after Mikaela competes in her first Winter Olympics in Sochi. We can’t wait to see if she’ll bring home the gold for Team USA!

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