Summer has breezed by and there are less than two months before the World Cup season starts at Soelden. Swiss World Cup skier Michelle Gisin spent the offseason windsurfing, getting stronger, and enjoying the sunshine with her boyfriend, fellow World Cup racer Luca de Aliprandini of Italy.
“I can never collect enough windsurf time,” she shares in a recent FIS interview. “But I had a great summer, and I could spend as much time as possible with Luca (de Aliprandini).”
It’s not all fun and games, though when you enjoy pushing yourself in the gym it can feel like mostly play.
“I love dryland training and being in the gym,” Gisin says. “It amazes me how far one can push oneself and one’s body. It’s fascinating to see the progress because after the season and some time off, I always start step-by-step back into training, so every week there’s lots of improvement.”
De Aliprandini has been a great training partner to push her.
“It is not the easiest relationship I guess, but it’s very much worth it,” she explains. “We don’t see each other often during the season, but the great thing is that neither of us has to be at the office from (eight to six), so we can spend whole days together in summer. When we’re training, we’re doing almost everything together. Or to be honest, I’m running behind him, trying to keep up without having a heart attack.”
Like all good things, summer came to close and Gisin traded in windsurfing for skiing in the Southern Hemisphere.
“Yes, I really do like it,” she says. “The southernmost place to ski in the world is very beautiful, and I enjoy the nature and being back in winter down there.”
As the upcoming season kicks off, the Swiss skier has her eye on becoming more of an all-around skier. Gisin originally started her World Cup career as a slalom specialist.
“I always loved slalom, and I had my breakthrough in European Cup in this discipline,” she explains. “I wanted to focus on it because after my ACL injury, I had troubles skiing well in GS (my best discipline back then), and I was better in slalom. I am convinced that it was important for me to find my place and get experience in one discipline before I was ready to start in the other events.”
That said, Gisin had a breakout season last year in the speed disciplines, earning a top-10 finish in her debut World Cup downhill race.
“Still sounds crazy to me,” she recalls. “Speed is something we talked about a lot about in my family. It’s now that I start to understand many of the things that have been said. I’m sure that hearing my siblings analyze their races helped me a lot when I started for the first time in Val d’Isère. They taught me the right amount of respect and how you work on your own fear to turn it into that respect of the course. Also, they put me into the right tuck position when I was around 10 years old.”
Gisin often calls on older sister Dominique, who won Olympic gold in the downhill at Sochi in 2014, for advice.
“She helps me a lot right now to know how to plan and to get along with the increased amount of races I will face this season,” Gisin shares. “Also, how to handle a good preparation without getting lost in too many details.”
Her brother Marc is also a World Cup skier specializing in speed, and she has looked up to her siblings her entire life.
“My siblings are the first ones I ever looked up to, and I am their biggest fan since day one,” she shares. “My brother always told me that rest is a weapon, and my sister showed me that even if all odds are against you, you can still go through it with grace and succeed.”
Evolving into an all-event skier makes for an exhausting season, but it has its benefits.
“Speed helps me find my freedom, my joy,” Gisin shares. “Slalom sometimes breaks your heart because if you are just 0.02 off per gate, which can be only a few centimeters, you feel terrible. In downhill, you can make a great turn even if you’re some meters further on the right or the left side. But slalom teaches me the mental strength and the technique, just like giant slalom.”
The World Championships in St. Moritz provided one of Gisin’s best moments of the 2016-17 season. In addition to racing in front of a home crowd, Gisin also walked away with a silver medal in alpine combined.
“You always work hard and hope for it to happen, but it also takes some luck,” the Swiss skier says. “So I’m lucky and happy I reached it.”
The next major event will be the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, which Gisin hopes to qualify for and compete in multiple events.
“I want to qualify for slalom and combined at first, for sure,” she says. “It won’t be easy for me in the other disciplines, but downhill would be the next and most exciting discipline for me because I fell in love with the downhill track in Jeongseon right away.”
Gisin is also bolstered by her teammates, who are like siblings on the road – competitive and supportive.
“We are athletes first, which is the perfect spirit in my opinion,” she says. “We are training together in order to get better and improve every day, and I’m lucky to be in such a focused team. As soon as training is over, we are having a very good time together and are good friends. So there’s no rivalry in the sense of envy, jealousy or something, but we are for sure pushing each other to ski faster, which is great.”