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All hail Mikaela (still)

 Mikaela Shiffrin in action. Photograph by Doug Paulding for  WAG magazine .

Mikaela Shiffrin in action. Photograph by Doug Paulding for WAG magazine.

When we were casting about for a cover for February WAG, American Olympic skier Mikaela Shiffrin seemed like a natural. Wine & Dine columnist Doug Paulding, an avid skier, had seen Shiffrin – the best slalom skier in the world – in action at Killington in Vermont on Thanksgiving weekend and agreed with the experts he talked to: This was her moment.

She delivered in the giant slalom – an event she has wrestled with – with an aggressive, technically proficient, come-from-behind victory that is a testament to her talent, discipline and hard work.

 Matthias Mayer

Matthias Mayer

But then she failed to medal in her best event, the slalom. Illness, nerves, a combination of both? Recently, she has suffered from stomach problems before the starts of races.

“I was almost trying to do something special. I don’t need to do something special,” Shiffrin said after the race. “I just need to ski like myself, and it would be fine.”

The mind, however, is a funny thing. You can tell yourself all this, but your subconscious offers a different undercurrent. And when it’s all on the line in a matter of minutes, no, seconds, that’s no small consideration.

How else to explain Nathan Chen, the king of quads, bombing in the short program in men’s figure skating? And yet, Adam Rippon – who is making his Olympic debut at 28 – has risen to the challenge.

Or consider Matthias Mayer, the Austrian skier who stunned Sochi four years ago with his gold medal downhill run, failed to defend it this time around in PyeongChang after crashing into a TV cameraman on the slalom portion of the combined then stormed back to win the super G, breaking Norway’s hold on that event. Hey, stuff happens.

The Olympic stage can shrink you or it can enlarge you – sometimes all at once.

Shiffrin is a role model, particularly for young women in this the age of women. She’s a reminder that you can dream as big as the boys.

At the Olympics, though, that’s not always enough.