Who Is Your Hero?

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Who Is Your Hero?

Do you have a role model: a person who has a good influence on you and who motivates you to do your best? Is this person someone you know personally or one you admire from afar? How do you think your role model has shaped your life?

A Swiftie since she was 13, Shiffrin, like legions of other girls and women, sees herself in Swift and has come to recognize elemental parallels in their careers and lives. For perspective, Shiffrin, 28, turns to her idol.

In July, Shiffrin rented a suite for Swift’s Eras Tour concert in Denver, an event Shiffrin described as “three hours of jumping up and down while singing every song at the top of my lungs.” Within that experience, Shiffrin pondered if there was a lesson that would help shape the next “era” of her own luminous career.

Had Swift, the teen prodigy who is now 34, helped point the way from one stage to another?

“Absolutely, because I’ve spent 15 years studying Taylor Swift and she has been guiding me a little bit every step of the way,” Shiffrin said in a recent interview in Vermont, where she claimed the 90th of her 93 career World Cup victories. “It’s why most Swifties become Swifties. It feels like her music is speaking directly to you. Her experiences resonate; I’ve always tried to learn from them.”

Shiffrin’s mother, Eileen, a former ski racer who is also one of her coaches, insisted that Swift had provided guidance that is more multifaceted and sophisticated than it might seem.

“Miki’s sport and career thrives on creativity,” Eileen wrote in an email last month, using Mikaela’s family nickname. She added that “every new Taylor Swift song, concert and video,” is an inspiration and motivation to her daughter.

Eileen Shiffrin, who praised Swift’s “street smarts” and business acumen, continued: “She keeps Miki ticking like she does the whole world. And she stands her ground, as she should, and that’s a great role model.”

As Mikaela Shiffrin, who has never met Swift, recalled various chapters of her public journey — stunning racing successes, ill-timed flops, the perils of fame, the accidental death of her father in 2020 — Shiffrin readily identified ways Swift had influenced her responses to each situation.

That long-distance tutelage began when the preternaturally gifted Shiffrin, nurtured in the Colorado mountains and at a venerable Vermont ski academy, won three World Cup races and a world championship gold medal as a high school senior. A year later, in 2014, she became the youngest slalom champion in Olympic history, at 18, and was thrust into an international sporting spotlight that has only seemed to magnify with each season.

But since her days as a 13-year-old listening to Swift’s 2008 album “Fearless” on repeat, she said, she has looked for clues on how to live as a celebrity.

“Granted, Taylor is a big fish in a big pond and I’m more of a big fish in a small pond,” Shiffrin said. “But you can see how she’s handled the attention, because she was a teenager too. She was able to hold up and work on her music. And while she’s very comfortable sharing a lot of her life, she builds a layer of protection when she needs it. She can disappear. That does seem to give her energy.

“I took all that in and kind of assimilated it. Although it was hard for me because I had to go from being an extreme introvert to being comfortable around a lot of cameras and microphones. It’s a bit funny having to go through life quantifying yourself as an introvert but having to live it in an extroverted way.”

Students 13 and older in the United States and Britain, and 16 and older elsewhere, are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public and may appear in print.