Tim Layden

Olympic hopefuls Gevvie Stone, Elle Purrier have very different paths ahead to Tokyo in 2021

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Eleven days before the Olympics were postponed, Gevvie Stone went home. Her route was circuitous and unplanned: A 34-year-old, two-time rowing Olympian and silver medalist in single sculls four years ago in Rio, Stone had been scheduled to fly from a training base in Austin, Texas to Sarasota, Fla., where the 2020 Olympic Trials would take place in April. Thunderstorms disrupted her itinerary and she was forced to lay over in Charlotte, N.C. On the ground, Stone got a text message from her father, Gregg, who is also her coach, telling her that the Trials had been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. (This would be announced publicly four days later). Shaken, though not entirely shocked, Stone went home to Boston to adapt to a new and shifting reality, at the same time clinging to hope.

Seven days later, Elle Purrier also went home. Her route was familiar, but also unplanned. A 25-year-old middle distance runner whose ascendant performances had made her a solid favorite to make the U.S. team in either the 1,500 meters or the 5,000 meters, Purrier had been training in Boston with a group of runners under coach Mark Coogan. She had been following news of the virus outbreak and absorbed the value of social distancing. Inside her Brighton apartment, one of her roommates had been traveling; outside, the streets were suddenly quieter than normal. “It was kind of eerie,’’ says Purrier. “I didn’t feel comfortable.’’ She drove four hours to northern Vermont, where her fiancée, Jamie St. Pierre, lives not far from the dairy farm where Elle was raised and where social distancing is not a decision but a reality.

This we have learned, over the years and across the various Olympiads: There is no typical Olympian or Olympic aspirant. They are male and female, young and old, urban and rural. They are tall and short, slender and stout, swift and powerful. They are funded by international corporations or they work a day job. They have put a life on hold to chase medals or they have no other life at all, quite yet, just this one. But they are all beholden to the calendar, which ruthlessly demands they be perfect on one day, in one place. That calendar is their life and on Tuesday that calendar was moved.

Gevvie Stone (full name: Genevra) has been to two Olympics and was chasing a third; had she made the team and raced in Tokyo, it would have been her last major competition before resuming her residency in emergency medicine at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Boston. As her Twitter profile notes: “Trust me, I’m a doctor.’’ Tokyo was to have been her coda.

Elle Purrier (full name: Elinor) is nine years younger than Stone and chasing her first Olympics. Had she made the team and raced in Tokyo, it quite possibly would not have been her last anything, because she is improving so rapidly — but no athlete is promised another race or another day. She is for now, a professional runner, who on Feb. 8 at the Millrose Games in New York ran the second-fastest women’s indoor mile in history, 4:16.85, and the fastest ever by an American, almost four seconds faster than the record held for 37 years by the legendary Mary Decker Slaney. Another life lies ahead for her, but more distant than Stone’s.

At home in Boston (Cambridge, Mass., actually), Stone waited, as the virus spread and applied increasing pressure on host nation Japan, the International Olympic Committee  (and by extension the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, to exert its own influence) to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She rowed alone on the Charles River and lifted weights with three other rowers, first at the Boston University boathouse, and now elsewhere, with closures at BU. Then she went home to isolate with her boyfriend. In an interview two days before the Games were postponed, Stone told me, “I’m living in the same state of anxiety as most people in the world. But I’ve been very lucky. I’m able to train. I’m in favor of holding the Olympics, as long as it’s determined to be safe.’’

A day later, in an email, her tone was different: “I have seen all the news, and I’m not sure what to make of it… in that it looks like a postponement is more and more likely, and it’s hard to wrap my head around that after training for years with the goal of summer 2020.’’

Purrier waited, too. She kept her world small, moving between her fiancee’s home and her family’s farm, 15 minutes away. She did long runs on the country roads, keeping mileage high, building a strength base for the track season ahead. For normalcy and structure, early in the mornings, she helped with milking the family’s 60 dairy cows, as she had done throughout her life, before leaving for the University of New Hampshire in 2013. In an interview one day before the Games were postponed, she told me, “It seems like the Olympics are going to be postponed. Everything was coming down to these last three months before Trials. It’s going to be a letdown. It’s going to be a disappointment.’’

Each in her own way, understood what was coming. Tuesday would bring the end – whether permanently or temporarily – to a journey. And for Olympians, it is always that journey that most properly measures what we so often consume as a moment. It is why they celebrate with family members or longtime coaches, together embracing the hours, days, months and years that were poured into the effort. The sacrifice in pursuit of a personal success that only they can understand.

Stone is rowing royalty. Her mother was a 1976 Olympian and two-time bronze medalist at the world championships (1977-’78) and her father (and coach) was a nationally prominent single sculler who might have made the U.S. Olympic team had it not boycotted the 1980 Olympics. Gevvie is six feet tall in socks. She graduated from Princeton in 2007, made the 2012 Olympic team and finished seventh in single sculls. Two years later she graduated from Tufts Medical School and put that career on hold to pursue the medal she won in Rio.

After Rio, she retired and started her residency. She loves medicine. “I love the emergency room,’’ says Stone. “I love the adrenaline rush of not knowing what’s going to come through the door.’’ But something was off. Twice she told friends she was retiring and both times she cried. Once, while speaking to elementary school kids, she was asked why, if she still loved rowing, was she retiring? The question landed in her heart. A friend suggested that if she was conflicted, try telling somebody you’re training for Tokyo and see how that feels. “So I called up another colleague and said, `I’m going to train for Tokyo,’ and I immediately got butterflies,’’ says Stone. She went to her residency director and asked to take another leave, and it was granted. One more Games.

Purrier won 16 state championships at tiny Richford High School in Vermont, and then was an 11-time All-American at UNH. The irresistible story of the farm girl who milked cows in the morning and dusted rivals in the afternoon was told endlessly, and obscured her soaring talent. She has only gotten better as a professional; in her Millrose victory she sat fourth behind a stiff pace and then sprinted past favored Konstanze Klosterhalfen of Germany to win easily. Her performance demonstrated the combination of endurance and explosiveness that wins global championships.

Purrier was building toward a series of spring races, while the running world awaited her decision on whether she would enter the 1,500 meters or 5,000 meters at the U.S. Olympic Trials, which had been scheduled for late June, in the rebuilt Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore. Purrier had finished seventh in the 1,500 meters in the 2018 NCAA Championships, in the old Hayward Field. “I remember being in that race, and knowing it was the last race at Hayward Field,’’ says Purrier. “I was looking forward to going back to the new one.’’

Official news of the postponement came early on Tuesday morning. Neither Stone nor Purrier was surprised. Both will need more than a day or a week to process what’s happened. (As will thousands of other athletes. The Olympics have been cancelled, but never postponed by a year; it is new territory for all of them).

Stone’s position is more tenuous; she had already begun a life after sports, and now that life must be embraced or pushed back another year. As the virus grew, she had communicated with her friends in medicine. Boston hospitals were – and still are – awaiting an anticipated wave of virus patients. “In a way, it helped me to talk to them,’’ says Stone. “There was anxiety to not knowing about the Olympics, but it’s a lot less anxiety-provoking than my fellow residents waiting, not knowing when this massive number of patients might arrive.’’

She has begun talking with family and friends, most pointedly her friends in the elite rowing world, who can better understand the variables. There are emotions to navigate, and uncertainties still in play. “We don’t know the dates for the 2021 Games,’’ said Stone, after the postponement was announced. “It’s going to take some time to sort through both the emotions and the logistics of it. I’ve put everything on hold for rowing for two years now. It can be seen as `What’s one more year?’ but also, `An entire year more?’ I was excited to race this summer and I was excited to restart residency in August. Now, a lot of unknowns. It’s heartbreaking and hard. But I know I’m fortunate that this is my pain, not life or death.’’

And this for now: “I’m still rowing, both to keep options open and because that’s where I get my moments of sanity and calm these days.’’

There is also one other possibility. If she is needed in the hospital, for a wave of coronavirus patients or for anything else, she will go there. “I took a Hippocratic oath,’’ says Stone. “I have offered myself [to the hospital] if that time comes.’’

Purrier is in a very different place. “Every year of my career I’ve gotten a little bit faster and a little bit stronger,’’ says Purrier. The rising athlete consumes this postponement differently from the athlete who is closer to the end. Youth is a safety net, but the emotional insulation it provides goes only so far. “I’m sad and let down,’’ says Purrier. “But I support the decision. In the grand scheme of things, a big part of the world’s population is sick, the economy is at risk. This was the right thing.’’ And this, on the athletic side:“ I feel good about where my running is going.’’

She’ll stay in Vermont for now, where she’s comfortable. There are hills to run and a serviceable track down the road in St. Albans. Together with her coach, she’ll sort out how much to race in the spring and summer, if there are any races at all. For Purrier, this is an interruption, not a crossroads. Nothing else awaits but more of the same, for now. “I’m all in,’’Purrier texted Wednesday afternoon. And then another text: “No plan to stop anytime soon.’’

Two athletes. Two paths toward an uncertain future.

Michael Phelps supports Tokyo postponement, but also worries about athletes’ depression

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On the morning of the first Olympic postponement in history, Michael Phelps, the most decorated Olympian in history, made breakfast for the older two of his three sons – Boomer, who will turn four in May; and Beckett, whose second birthday was in February. (Maverick, the youngest, is six months old.) Phelps then lifted weights. Sometimes he rides his Peloton bike in simulated workouts with professional golfer friends like Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy and Billy Horschel. “I enjoy handing out beatdowns,” said Phelps. “On the golf course, they kill me. J.T. beats me playing lefthanded.” Often Phelps swims, but coronavirus restrictions have closed training pools in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Phelps has lived since 2015. So on this day, he lifted.

It is March of the Olympic year. Or it was an Olympic year, but not anymore. In March of each of the last five summer Olympic years, Phelps was steaming toward some variation on historic dominance, putting the final touches on a years-long training plan, the Games almost within range. “Around this time,” said Phelps, “I would be in the last stages of my prep. I’d be feeling more peppy in the water. I’d be thinking, okay, I’m done, let’s get this show on the road.” That show produced a record 28 Olympic medals and a record 23 gold, including five golds and one silver four years ago at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, Phelps’s last Games, at age 31. Always, the preparation consumed his life (except, to some degree in 2012, more on that below), as it consumes every would-be Olympian’s life. “It’s four years of preparation,” he said, “And for those four years, the date of the Olympics, every race, is tattooed inside your brain.”

This year, of course, is stunningly different; the world is fighting a global pandemic. On Tuesday, host nation Japan and the International Olympic Committee, amid an increasingly vocal push from the global athletic community, announced a one-year postponement of the Games. Five times in history the Summer and Winter Olympics have been cancelled and several times diminished by boycotts. Never had they been postponed. Phelps had been expecting the action. “I was shocked that they hadn’t cancelled before this,” he said. `”I couldn’t see a way for it to all work out. We’ve had issues in the past, the air quality in Beijing (2008) and the Zika virus in Rio, but this seemed so much bigger. It didn’t seem like something that could be managed or controlled. I just didn’t see the dots getting connected.”

We were talking on the phone. I had covered chunks of Phelps’s five Olympics and many of those 28 medals, as had most of the Olympic media world. In 2015, I wrote the story of Phelps’s descent, and comeback in Sports Illustrated. I asked what this must feel like to athletes, a journey interrupted suddenly. Justly, but suddenly. “Your whole life is pointed toward this moment,” he said, “And then this huge curveball. `Nope, you’ve got to wait another year.’ If this had happened to me, I would be completely flipping out at the uncertainty. I mean, speechless. Like, is this a bad dream?”

Phelps has enduring relationships with many active swimmers. He is Babe Ruth in their sport. Eight-time Olympic medalist Allison Schmitt is among his closest friends. He talks frequently with Katie Ledecky, who won four golds in Rio and was likely to again be among the biggest stars on Team USA in Tokyo. “All of this is so hard to wrap your head around,” said Phelps. “I just feel really badly for all the athletes who have made it this far. On the one hand, I’m relieved that they’re getting another year, and rightfully so. But the waiting also makes it a lot more difficult.”

And there is this: “I really, really hope we don’t see an increase in athlete suicide rates because of this. Because the mental health component is by far the biggest thing here. This postponement is uncharted waters. We’ve never seen this before. It was the right decision, but it breaks my heart for the athletes.”

Mental health awareness is the foundation of Phelps’s post-athletic life. His passion grew from understanding and battling the depression that troubled him before it was diagnosed and led him to consider suicide in 2014, after his life cratered with a drunk driving arrest and suspension by USA Swimming. He spent 45 days in a rehabilitation facility and re-emerged with newfound health. But also with an ongoing respect for and awareness of the disease that took him down in the first place. “I’ve gone through a handful of pretty scary depressive spells since Rio,’’ said Phelps. “It’s not something that’s going to go away. But I’ve learned that my depression and anxiety don’t hold me back, they make me who I am.’’

Phelps consults and speak frequently about depression, and is a part of director Brett Rapkin’s documentary project, The Weight of Gold, which examines mental health and depression in Olympic athletes. “Trying to save a life,” says Phelps, of his work.

Now Phelps worries about swimmers – and all Olympians and aspiring Olympians – abruptly asked to re-calibrate their lives. “If this happened to me, and I was in a bad place mentally,” he said, “I would have unraveled. As someone who has gone through some really deep stages of depression, and still deals with it, I hope and pray that every one of these athletes gets help with the mental health part of this situation. This is a very big thing, and we can’t even leave our houses now. So if you’re an athlete, go online, pick up the phone, find somebody to talk to.”

Phelps said that in the current, heightened circumstance, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, and USA Swimming (and by extension all the Olympic sport governing bodies) should make increased mental health counseling available to athletes sorting out future options and grappling with the suddenness of this shift. “There is no bigger time for them to act than now,” Phelps said. “If they want to help athletes, they need to do it now. Because right now is the most crucial time for athletes.”

Every athlete affected by the postponement is in a singular place, physically and mentally. I asked Phelps how a postponement might have changed his last three Olympics.

  • 2008 (Beijing, where Phelps won a record eight gold medals):  “I was totally locked and loaded,” he said, “But I had broken my wrist six months before the Trials and I was still getting better, I would love to have had another year.”
  • 2012 (London, where Phelps was undertrained, disinterested and careening toward the crash that would come two years later, still won four golds and two silvers): “If the Olympics had been moved to 2013, I would have straight punted,” said Phelps. “I would not have shown up. That was the mental state I was in. I was mailing everything in, anyway, and I couldn’t have done that for another year.”
  • 2016 (Rio, where Phelps closed out with those five golds and one silver, a triumphant finish to his career): “I would not have given up,’’ said Phelps. “No way in hell. I wanted to finish something that I hadn’t finished right. I don’t know what it would have looked like with a year off, if those games were postponed, but I would have found a way. The climb back to the top of that mountain was the best time I had I my career.”

Which leads Phelps back to the present, where dozens of athletes find themselves both relieved at escaping the uncertainty of 2020, yet quickly must re-calibrate their emotions and ambitions toward an Olympics which are, as a practical matter, presumably only 16 months away. Had this not been a historic postponement, we would be saying the Games are close at hand, not far away. The athlete in Phelps said this: “If any athlete looks inside himself or herself and decides that these Olympics are something that’s important for them to finish, there’s nothing that’s too big to overcome. There is nothing that can stop them. Just focus on things you can control and don’t get overwhelmed by the things you can’t control, because that’s what you can start to have problems.”

In the background of our interview, a child’s voice rang out. Boomer had soaked his clothes in the sprinkler. “I’ll be right out,” said Phelps, to the little boy who lounged on his mother’s – and grandmother’s – lap in Rio. There is that world where little kids play in the sun and another where athletes’ entire existence is upside down and Phelps worries for their futures. “If people are struggling, I hope they call me,” said Phelps. “My phone is always open.”

Tim Layden is writer-at-large for NBC Sports. He was previously a senior writer at Sports Illustrated for 25 years.

Remembering Jeff Shiffrin, a rock in Mikaela Shiffrin’s mountaintop

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In the fall of 2017, I went to Colorado to interview Mikaela Shiffrin for a story in Sports Illustrated, my employer at the time and for many years prior. Shiffrin, then 22, had risen to the top of the alpine ski racing world and was among the presumptive U.S. stars at the approaching Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. She was a near certainty to win two medals, with the potential for two more. (She won two medals, including a gold in giant slalom; ski racing resists formful outcomes for many reasons. On balance, Mikaela did just fine under withering pressure and has roared forward since, deep into the sport’s record books).

For me, this trip exemplified the life of the Olympic journalist, an every-four-years immersion, replete with apologies to subjects for having stayed away in the interim. I had made the same sojourn four years earlier when Shiffrin, just 18, was on the verge of an Olympic breakthrough (she became the youngest slalom gold medalist in history). No complaints on the gig. The drive from Denver on I-70 through the mountains to Vail is a cleansing journey, climbing above the tree line and falling into deep valleys, the landscape splashed with insouciant evergreens, hardened by grey rock and accented with snowpack on high in the cold air. I had made the trip many times, on family ski vacations and to cover other competitions. A couple times to interview distance runners. As long as the sky was blue and roads clear, it was never a stressful assignment.

Plus, Mikaela and her family were an important and fascinating story that I was excited to report and write, again.

It was a little before noon when I arrived at the family condo. Mikaela’s mother Eileen was in the garage, assiduously organizing gear in advance of the team’s annual embarkment to Europe for the start of the World Cup racing season. Inside, Mikaela’s father, Jeff, was puttering around the house in a wrinkled, long-sleeved t-shirt and jeans, a muscular, outdoorsy man with a slightly unkempt, bushy white mustache. Mikaela was showering after a workout. Jeff and I talked, killing time. Talked about skiing. About mountain weather. About medical  care (he was an anesthesiologist). About other ski racers. We talked about ceiling vent fans, because there was a balky one clattering away in the laundry room. Outside, the sun arced across the autumn sky and the temperature rose into the 60s. Talking with Jeff Shiffrin was like talking to that old college buddy who hasn’t been fundamentally changed by time.

It strikes me now that this day was, to me, a metaphor for the wonderful alchemy that made the Shiffrin family such a beautiful unit. (That past tense lands heavily). The story is often told: Jeff and Eileen met at a Boston hospital where Jeff was plying his trade and Eileen was a nurse. Jeff had been a ski racer at Dartmouth and Eileen a lifelong skier and solid age-group racer; they courted on mountainsides, married and raised two children, a boy named Taylor, and Mikaela. Years later, as Mikaela became a global star, Eileen became Mikaela’s most important coach, her traveling roommate, her soul sister. Jeff did everything else, often from a distance, with uncommon dignity. “Personally,” he said to me that day, “I stay out of it.” That wasn’t really true. He stayed out of the drama, but he was the rock.

You know the subtext of all this storytelling: Jeff Shiffrin died unexpectedly this week after an accident at home. He was 65. His death is a terrible loss, for the ski racing community, for the patients he attended at the hospital where he worked, and most of all for the three family members he left behind, now unmoored.

Mikaela posted to her social media accounts: “My family is heartbroken beyond comprehension about the unexpected passing of my kindhearted, loving, caring, patient, wonderful father. Our mountains, our ocean, our sunrise, our heart, our soul, our everything.”

There is a genuine American obsession with cracking the code to raising superstar children. Superstar musicians. Superstar students. Superstar athletes. The unspoken truth behind this fascination is that there is no code to crack. Ask any parent. There is life, and there are games and there is an uncertain path, dotted with obstacles that can only be managed within reason. The math prodigy suddenly discovers poetry. The violinist grows bored. The tailback blows out an ACL. Even beyond that, and more benignly, children will go where children go and do what children do. Apron strings are not sold in extra long. None of this absolves parents from seeking the best worlds for their kids, and it’s up to each set of parents to define and navigate that world.

The Shiffrins plotted an uncommon path for their kids. There was a high probability that Taylor and Mikaela would become accomplished skiers, via both DNA and repetition. As long as they liked it. But Jeff and Eileen did not approach this opportunity in the traditional manner, by force-feeding competition. Instead they did two things: One, they encouraged their kids to play as many sports as possible: Soccer, tennis, wind-surfing, even riding unicycles. (A parlor trick-slash-cross-training-bit that eventually found its way into every feature story about Mikaela). And two, they eschewed conventional training methods and didn’t worry about winning. “The goal,” Jeff told me for that first SI piece in 2014, “was to work toward mastery.”

A moment in Jeff’s early athletic life guided his vision. He was raised in Dover, New Jersey, 40 miles west of Manhattan; and learned to ski at Great Gorge (now Mountain Creek), in the northwest corner of New Jersey. It was there that he met an Austrian instructor whose only initial command was: “Follow me.’’ This sounds simple, but contrasts with conventional ski teaching, where beginners are taught the efficacy and control of the pizza wedge, in which skis are pointed in a V-shape to control speed and enable turning. Mikaela was never taught to pizza wedge. “Skis are designed to make smooth arcs in the snow,” Jeff told me. “That’s what we taught her.” (In fairness, there are surely plenty of little French and Austrian girls who learned similarly).

From that same SI piece: At the age of five, with the Shiffrins having moved to Colorado (Eileen and Mikaela would eventually bounce back to the East, and then back again), Mikaela enrolled in an after-school ski program at Vail Mountain. On the first day, the munchkins were told to ski down a short slope to the bottom, so that instructors could observe their technique and divide them into groups. Most pizza-wedged their way down the hill. Mikaela carved a series of wide turns and slammed to a stop at the instructor’s feet. The man looked at his clipboard and then looked at Mikaela and said, “I don’t have a group for you.”

Follow me.

As the years unfolded, Mikaela raced, but less than many in her age group. She advanced because she was excellent, not because she was prolific. It was counterintuitive, and mom and dad were always nearby, stressing form over outcomes. “Everyone wants to replicate what I’ve done,” Mikaela told me in ’14. “I remember skiing being a family recreational thing.”

The rest of the story is alpine legend. Mikaela reached the World Cup, the highest level of the sport, a few days shy of her 16th birthday. She has won three Olympic medals (two of them gold), five world championships and 66 World Cup races. Only Vonn (82), Ingemar Stenmark (86) and Marcel Hirscher (67) have won more, and while the lesson of this week’s loss is that none of us is promised a vibrant tomorrow, Shiffrin, who does not turn 25 until next month, can become the most accomplished ski racer in history.

Throughout this rise to the top of his daughter’s sport, and as Eileen became her daughter’s primary coach, Jeff Shiffrin publicly receded into the background. He was vital to her development and a loving father, but he never saw the need to slice off a piece of her spotlight for himself. In a culture where every major sports telecast seems to include endless reaction shots of parents in the gallery, his willingness to cede the stage was remarkable.

But it’s wrong to say Jeff wasn’t deeply involved. It was Jeff who chose former Austrian World Cup racer Kilian Albrecht as Mikaela’s agent/manager. “He was always thinking out of the box,” Albrecht wrote to me in an email this week. “That was probably the reason why I got to work with his daughter. He knew I would be valuable living in Europe and having been an athlete in the sport. I am forever grateful for that, as it’s not normal to get that trust.

“He was always focused on the task,’’ says Albrecht. “And not the noise around it.”

During my 2017 meeting with Jeff, we were talking about Eileen’s non-traditional role. It is not ordinary for an athlete’s mother to travel and to serve as her coach. The Shiffrins pay all of Eileen’s expenses, and always have. (Note: Eileen cut back her travel this winter, giving Mikaela more space; the future of that arrangement is obviously to be determined.) But Jeff did not hesitate to tell me that he understood who was in charge. “I suppose we could be demanding and just tell the U.S. Ski Team, `You have to pay her,’” he said. “But we don’t.” Then he shrugged and smiled, blue eyes twinkling over that mustache, a strong man in charge, and secure in his own skin.

When Mikaela won her first Olympic gold medal in Sochi, reporters found Jeff at the bottom of the hill with a camera around his neck, taking pictures to occupy his mind and his nerves, which he came to do often.

He was so proud that day. Mikaela nearly fell on her second run, but rescued the gold medal with a remarkable save. Jeff had been worried about his little girl, because she was visibly nervous at the team hotel. “No matter how steely you are, those nerves are in there,” he said. “You saw people with a lot more experience than Mikaela lose that battle.” Four years later, with Eileen up on the mountainside, Jeff was again at the bottom as Mikaela won two more medals. Over the years, he would periodically jet over to Europe for a few races, and then jet back home to work, yet always tethered to his daughter.

Back to 2017, now. Mikaela has emerged from the shower and is confidently answering my questions while sitting on the couch. Eileen sits down after a while and also answers questions. Meanwhile, Jeff continues to buzz around the house. He knows I have a late afternoon flight home out of Denver and he also knows that there is a weekend bottleneck east of Idaho Springs and that I’m pushing it.

“Tim, you’re going to miss that flight and your wife is going to be very unhappy.”

“Tim, we can always get Miki on the phone tomorrow morning to finish this up.”

“Tim, you really need to get in that rental car and go.”

Memories are personal. This was an insignificant moment in the broader world. But it was also, to me, the essence of Jeff Shiffrin. A celebrity dad, on top of the world, worried about somebody else. A man who will be missed.