An athlete’s first Olympics should be a nerve-racking event. Compete against the best in front of a world-wide audience? How does one prepare for that?
If you’re U.S. skier Mikaela Shiffrin, you’ve been prepping for years.
The 18-year-old will race for the first time in Sochi on Tuesday as one of the favorites in the women’s giant slalom (Watch it here starting at 2 am ET). She’s no novice — she’s the second-youngest American to win a World Cup alpine event and won the 2013 season title in slalom — and says she’s already prepped herself to think that way.
“I am really psyched to race, and I’ve been here before, in my head, for sure,” Shiffrin said, via the AP. “So to everybody, it’s my first Olympics, but to me it’s my thousandth.”
That entails picturing scenarios along the way (how will she feel at the starting gate? And on the podium? Or a crash?) so she can be prepared for whatever the course throws her way. Perhaps it’ll work. Some of her peers seem to think it will.
“She will handle the pressure really good,” Sweden’s Maria Pietilae-Holmner (second in the World Cup giant slalom standings), told the AP. “She’s still young, she’s not thinking too much, and I think she will for sure take one medal, at least.”
David Ortiz called his good friend Aly Raisman on Thursday night. Raisman had one request for their scheduled meeting for Friday.
“I told him that he had to hold my medals while I threw out the first pitch,” Raisman said on NESN. “I told him he better not forget, but he remembered.”
Ortiz made it a highlight, wearing Raisman’s three Rio medals and plodding as if they were weighing him down before the Royals-Red Sox game at Fenway Park on Friday night.
It was reminiscent of Bryce Harper serving as a medal rack for Katie Ledecky on Wednesday night.
Ortiz and Raisman have come to know each other in the last four years, after Raisman’s first Olympic appearance in London. Raisman, a native of Needham, Massachusetts, has attended a gala and golf tournament benefitting Ortiz’s children’s charity.
She previously threw a first pitch at Fenway following the 2012 London Games. It didn’t faze Raisman that her pitch Friday bounced before reaching home plate.
“My pitch was horrible, but that’s OK,” Raisman said on NESN. “I’m good at gymnastics, so it doesn’t matter.”
Raisman will rejoin her Final Five teammates for a USA Gymnastics tour of 36 cities that begins Sept. 15. Whether she returns to competitive gymnastics is unknown.
MORE: Gymnastics royalty reacts to Biles and Raisman’s Olympic heroics
Claressa Shields may just be the most dominant female athlete on the planet. The Flint, Mich., native is now a two-time Olympic boxing champion with a 77-1 record and a four-year unbeaten streak.
Actor Mark Wahlberg, who played boxer Micky Ward in the 2010 film “The Fighter,” took notice.
He taped a video that Shields watched before a celebration in her hometown Thursday, according to the Flint Journal.
“You are the true definition of a champion,” Wahlberg said. “You continue to inspire so many people, not only in Flint, but all over the world. I’m so proud of you. Your performance was amazing. God bless you. I look forward to seeing you, and I look forward to doing lots of things with you.”
Now Shields must decide whether to turn professional, which would end her Olympic career.
“Professional women’s boxing is not nowhere near on the same attention level as the Olympics are,” the 21-year-old Shields said, according to the Flint Journal. “I get way more attention than any female boxer who is professional right now with me being an amateur.
“So the goal is to go professional but still have that same attention and same mainstream. Hopefully, if they have the rule changed that the women professionals can come back and fight the Olympics, I would go professional to fight on TV and make a bunch of money but then come back and defend my two gold medals in 2020.”
MORE: Shields becomes first U.S. fighter to win back-to-back golds