In the 1970s and 80s, it was an accepted practice to throw women onto the track at racetracks across the country to drive the off-road vehicles known as ATVs (Asphalt Tyres on Rails). Their presence was deemed proof that the men were finally being honest and inclusive in addressing the gender-based discrimination in their sport.
This time around, however, the woman is 14-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin, a recent high school graduate from Vail, Colorado, who was working part-time after getting her driver’s license and had never come across a race track. But despite the lack of familiarity with vehicles, she learned quickly that it was possible to compete against the men in men’s country.
The person who has served as her guide has been her father, Jeff, who ran the family’s travel business.
“He knew my dad and he kind of sat me down and said, ‘You know, this is a great way to race. Get on the track, try it out.’ I looked at him and I went, ‘Really? What do you mean, I’ve never done it?’ He said, ‘Well, when you get back here, we’ll teach you,’” Mikaela recalled.
She got the same encouragement from her father to succeed in the top-level racers, and shortly after switching from skiing to snowmobiling, she qualified for a showcase race — the Women’s Isle of Man — and competed against an international field. When she got home to Vail, Jeff did exactly that.
“I think he was impressed,” said Mikaela, “but he gave me a good shiner, too.”
“With her talent and willingness to work hard,” reads her father’s coaching newsletter, “Mikaela is entering into her junior season and bringing our family to another high.”
So if you want to see a girl rise from the pressure of being the daughter of someone famous, then here’s your opportunity. With the rest of America’s top athletes, including Lindsey Vonn, skier Johnny Weir, snowboarder Shaun White, and figure skater Ashley Wagner, cheering her on, Mikaela is set to become the youngest female to compete in her sport’s Olympics (she’ll be 18 years old in the Winter Games).
And who knows? She may even beat her father in the “hot rod derby.”
Read the full story at The Guardian.
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