Mikaela Shiffrin presents the keynote speech at Gold Medal Gala in New York | AspenTimes.com

Mikaela Shiffrin presents the keynote speech at Gold Medal Gala in New York

$1.7 million raised for U.S. Ski and Snowboard at fundraiser

Ryan Sederquist
Vail Daily
Mikaela Shiffrin gets to the finish area after completing the first run of an women's World Cup giant slalom in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, Sunday, March 21, 2021.
Marco Trovati/AP

In the still and quiet moment just before a slalom run begins, it’s not recommended for skiers to make a final glance toward the eager crowd below prior to heading toward the first gate.

When you’re giving a keynote speech, the rules are different — something about visualizing those people being in underpants, right? When you’re a 70-time World Cup winner and your name is Mikaela Shiffrin, perhaps neither rule applies.

Moments before the 55th annual New York Gold Medal Gala, the major fundraising event for U.S. Ski and Snowboard, the undisputed face of the team stood in a classy, black-striped, full-length ballroom gown, peering out with a stoic nervousness at the crowd. They say nerves are necessary to bring out your best in sport, and they brought out the best in the skier on stage, too.

Shiffrin played an integral part in the event, raising a record $1.7 million to support athlete training, development, competition and educational needs by giving an inspirational speech and auctioning off a recently acquired wardrobe item, courtesy of the International Ski Federation.

“What an incredible evening,” she said. “Thank you to all of the generous donors for your support.”

In the current times, fundraising has become more critical for the team than ever, according to Shiffrin.

“With the presence of COVID-19 still affecting nearly every aspect of our competitions, travel, and health, that team support is going to be crucial this season,” she said. “Even more crucial than it’s ever been.”

Shiffrin wasn’t the only athlete to provide star power; she was joined by past Olympic legends Ted Ligety, Hannah Kearney, Alice McKennis Duran, Shannon Bahrke Happe, Donna Weinbrecht, Andrew Weibrecht, Danny Kass, JJ Thomas, Ross Powers, Kaitlyn Farrington, Alice Merryweather, Sam DuPratt and Jonny Moseley, who hosted the event. CEO Emeritus Tiger Shaw passed the reins to new president and CEO, Sophie Goldschmidt, during the evening, as well.

“The last eight years have been some of the most extraordinary years of my life,” Shaw said.

In a night filled with an exuberant auction and fervent celebration, Goldschmidt echoed the vibe during her acceptance of the new call.

“I’m used to working around passionate people, but this is really unparalleled,” she said.

Shiffrin kicked off her 2021-2022 campaign with confidence last month, winning the opening World Cup event in Soelden, Austria. The night ended with the Edwards resident auctioning off her current giant slalom leader bib. After mentioning that four U.S. athletes placed in the top 25 on the women’s side at the event, a polite applause from the crowd was halted as she exclaimed, “There’s a bigger humdinger coming, so just wait for a second!” In an Olympic year, ski fans can only pray her promise is prescient.

She spent the introduction of her speech thanking supporters but quickly focused her words toward the fan base. She ushered in hope through an alternation between contextualizing Team USA’s early season accomplishments in the stars and stripes ski lore with firm, humorous commands to her hybrid live and online audience to hold their applause until she finished.

“Imagine that,” she said at the end of her summary. “That is something to celebrate. Clap!” she jocosely demanded.

And clap they did. For those at home imagining gold and hoping to celebrate, there are still nearly 100 days until the 2022 Beijing Games. Until then, one can satiate their appetite with the upcoming World Cup races in Lech/Zuers (Nov. 13) and Courchevel (Dec. 21).

Whether she is in the starting gate or not, know that she probably won’t make any quick, noticeably nervous pre-race glances at the television cameras to see who is tuned in. Even so, she’ll feel your contribution.

“All of you in this room and those watching virtually make this national team possible,” she said. “Not only possible, but also competitive.

“We have the ability to win there (in Beijing), because we know you’re standing with us,” she said as she wrapped up the evening. Her conclusion circled back to the backers of the red, white and blue.

“I can tell you … when the going gets tough and the nerves and the fear sets in, and we’re so far away from home, we can feel your love and support, and that is what gets us through the Games,” she said. “And that’s what brings home gold.”