Olympic skier Shiffrin's family cheers gold medal slalom win
LANESBOROUGH -- Members of Mikaela Shiffrin's extended family were in gold medal voice on Friday, and who could blame them.
The Colorado teen, whose mother, Eileen, grew up in Lanesborough and attended Mount Greylock Regional High School, earned gold at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, placing first in the women's slalom.
It was a cause for great celebration on Friday morning, as family members gathered and watched a live feed of the event at the Shiffrin family home.
Eileen's mother, Polly Condron, 92, was reportedly in great spirits in the comfort of her home, and so were Eileen's sisters Caroline Ryan and Anne-Marie Herrick, and brother Patrick "P.J." Condron. Other nephews, nieces and cousins were also part of the celebration.
"The first thing Eileen and [her husband] Jeff did was call Nana," said P.J., who also lives in Lanesborough. "I'm pretty sure she was in tears. I told her we loved them and that they had got it done. There certainly was a lot of sacrifice involved.
"Eileen had taken many high school courses over again so that she could school Mikaela while they traveled the World Cup circuit. Imagine giving that kind of support. But I talked to her and it sounded like she was in heaven."
It was a hectic minute or two, said Anne-Marie, of Albany, N.Y., about the tension of watching the second of her niece's two runs down the mountain. Mikaela almost "wiped out" during that second run and on top of that the live feed blacked out momentarily.
"We were all holding our heads," Anne-Marie said. "She almost went off the course, and then the feed stopped and came back. I look back now and realize that so many things could have happened."
But when everyone started to breathe again, added Anne-Marie, "It was like nothing we've ever felt."
If there was a calming presence at all on Friday morning for the family members, it came from an unlikely source. Polly Shiffrin's husband, Joseph, passed away some years ago. But there was a sense that the skiing enthusiast was watching "from above," when a commercial from General Electric appeared on the screen just prior to Mikaela's gold medal second run. Joseph, said P.J. about his father, made his living working at GE.
Caroline said the family knew that Mikaela had the talent to win gold. So, she added, no one was surprised at the outcome. But reflecting on the moment it happened she was obviously an equally proud sister and aunt.
"It was awesome," said the Rochester, N.Y., native. "An overwhelming experience. And I was so excited for Eileen and Jeff."
Mikaela Shiffrin, at just 18 years old, has alot of ski life ahead of her. And her personal schedule, P.J. said, will no doubt get tighter.
But he still expects to see her when she visits Nana, and he added that you still might catch a glimpse of her running and training on the back roads of Lanesborough or water skiing on Pontoosuc Lake.
The difference now will be that slight aura of gold that surrounds her.
Said P.J., "I think we all knew this was her destiny."
Brian Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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