Name at birth: Mikaela Shiffrin
Mikaela Shiffrin is the teen prodigy who in 2013 became the youngest American alpine skiier ever to win a world championship, then won a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Mikaela Shiffrin was 17 when she won gold in the slalom at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, with the victory also making her the overall World Cup slalom winner for the season. Mikaela Shiffrin was born in Vail, Colorado; her father was a former college ski racer and her mother a ski instructor. Mikaela was skiing "freshies down the family driveway at age three" according to her US Ski Team bio. The family moved to New Hampshire when she was 8, and she eventually enrolled at Vermont's Burke Mountain Academy. (She graduated in June of 2013.) Known even at a young age for her technical precision and intense work ethic, Shiffrin was a natural for the fast turns of the slalom, giant slalom and super combined. She quickly rose beyond juniors to national competitions, and made her World Cup debut on 11 March 2011, two days before her 16th birthday, in a giant slalom in the Czech Republic. The next month she won the gold medal in the slalom at the U.S. National Championships. The results piled up quickly from there, and her first World Cup win in December 2012 in Sweden (she was 17) was followed by her stunning win in the slalom at her very first world championships on February 16, 2013. Those successes, abetted by what the New York Times called "a gleaming smile, long blond hair and no pretension," turned Shiffrin into a media star for the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She delivered, winning the women's slalom in a combined time of 1:44:54. She became the youngest-ever winner of a slalom gold medal.
Mikaela Shiffrin was named World Cup rookie of the year in 2012… Mikaela Shiffrin skis on Atomic skis, boots and bindings, according to the International Ski Federation… Although she is the youngest American ever to win a World Cup title, racers from other countries have won younger. The youngest ever was Christa Zechmeister of West Germany, who won a slalom competition in Val d’Isere, France on December 8, 1973 — four days after her 16th birthday.