Alpine Young Guns: Michelle Gisin
By Michael Mastarciyan
When your older brother and sister are two of the best racers on the planet, there’s a good chance you’re pretty nimble on skis yourself. So without further ado folks, meet Michelle Gisin – the latest model from the Gisin family race factory in beautiful Engleberg, Switzerland.
The youngest member of the Gisin race clan, 19-year-old Michelle, made national headlines last February when she snagged a silver medal in slalom at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships. Her success in Quebec stirred up excitement for ski fans across Switzerland, but no one is apparently more excited about Michelle’s accomplishments than big sister Dominique!
“I'm very happy for her. She loves skiing just as much as I do, and is a talented hard working athlete. I'm very proud of her and happy she’s on track to fulfill her dreams,” says Dominique.
So is big sister looking forward to having little sister join her full-time on the World Cup tour?
“I'm looking forward to that a lot. It was already an unforgettable experience to race at her very first World Cup race myself. She's a great person to have around, knows me very well, and is just fun to train and race with.”
And does big sister ever get excited when little sister is racing?
“I'm actually excited like crazy. Same when my brother is skiing, I'm definitely much more nervous than when I'm racing myself,” says Dominique.
Despite being proficient in all disciplines like her older sister and big brother Marc (Michelle finished 3rdin DH at the 2011 Swiss Junior Nationals, and 1st in Super Combined and 3rd in Super-G at the 2012 Swiss Junior Nationals), for the last couple of seasons, Michelle has focused primarily on slalom and GS.
An avid windsurfer, golfer, Lord of the Rings geek (and I say that with respect as I’m a LOTR geek myself), and dead ringer for her older sister, the younger Miss Gisin is currently deep into a summer of dry-land and on-snow training. She took a break from her off-season activities recently to answer a few questions about her ski life, family, and the long list of neat non-ski-related things she’s passionate about…
MM: Okay Michelle, first of all you’re younger than Dominique but share an uncanny resemblance…anyone ever tell you guys you look like twins?
MG: Ha-ha! Yes there are a lot of people mistaking us for each other, and once a woman in a shoe store really asked us if we were twins.
MM: Your sister told me about a bunch of things she’s really into in a story I wrote about her a couple of years ago (www.fisalpine.com/news/5-things-you-should-know-about-dominique-gisin,1425.html) they include: reading, stamp collecting, heavy metal music (Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Wolfmother) , polar bears and winter. Do you share her passion for any of these things?
MG: Of course I love winter too! I’m also very much into music like both my siblings, but I prefer slower music like The Lumineers, Walk Off The Earth, Of Monsters and Men, and a little band consisting of some friends from Zermatt. Also, just like her, I’m a reading geek. I love books to shut the world out.
MM: I already know you and your big sister love The Lord of The Rings trilogy (books and movies). Dominique speaks a little Sindarin (one of the Elvish languages) and can read and write in Tengwar, one of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional scripts. How proficient are you in Sindarin and Tengwar?
MG: Ooof! I don’t understand it. It’s too complicated for me!
MM: What turned you on to LOTR? Who’s your favourite character?
MG: I always wanted to watch the same movies as my siblings - actually I always wanted all the same stuff like them just because they had it! So I was pretty young when I saw Lord of the Rings for the first time. I was totally fascinated by Legolas and watched some scenes (like the battle at Helm’s Deep) like a thousand times.
MM: Any other books you really love?
MG: I grew up with the Harry Potter books and sometimes I still hope for a letter from Hogwarts (she says with a wink)! There are many others, but one of my favourite books is The Host by Stephenie Meyer. I really liked Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and I can’t wait for the next volume of A Song of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin. His writing style and the characters he’s created are just awesome!
MM: Your family is really into golf…what’s your golf handicap?
MM: Who’s the best golfer in the family?
MG: That’s easy, my brother Marc. His drives are 300 meters long and perfectly straight.
MM: Do you ever watch golf on TV? Do you have a favourite golfer?
MG: I don’t watch it very often but I like Rory McIlroy.
MM: What about flying planes? Are you interested in becoming a pilot like your sister?
MG: I can imagine that one day I would like to learn how to fly, but for now I enjoy the panoramic views while Dominique controls the plane.
MM: You’re a pretty good windsurfer. What is it you like so much about that sport?
MG: Oh I’m definitely not good. But I love the feeling when you race over the waves, and it almost feels like flying.
MM: Do you have any other hidden talents, hobbies or passions you want to share with your fans?
MG: I like to play beach volleyball, swim and being with friends.
MM: Okay let’s talk about that other little interest in your life – ski racing! You won a silver slalom medal in Quebec last February at Junior Worlds. It was your first major victory – how did that feel?
MG: It was crazy.
MM: Do you think your success at Junior Worlds will have an effect on the way you race in the future?
MG: No I hope not. I just want to enjoy every race and try to make a challenge for myself out of every run.
MM: What’s the most important thing you learned from your success at Junior Worlds last February?
MG: I realized why the big events like the Olympics, World Champs etc. are so crazy. You only have one chance. You have to risk everything and if it doesn’t work
MM: Did you hear from Marc and Dominique after you won the medal? What did they say?
MG: They were so happy for me and that made me even happier. The support of my family means a lot to me.
MM: You used to ski a lot of speed events and had some excellent success at the national junior level in Switzerland. Over the last year or so, you’ve primarily been a tech skier, why did you decide to concentrate more on tech?
MG: I’ve always preferred short turns, but I like Super-G too. After my injury I started to be more focused on slalom. I think it was a good decision to concentrate on
one discipline with all my energy to find the break-through, instead of just giving 25% to four different disciplines.
MM: Do you have a favourite discipline?
MM: Your sister and brother race in all events. Can you see yourself doing that in the future also?
MG: I want to race in slalom, GS and Super-G but I leave DH to my siblings. They are much better (she says with a grin).
MM: You’ve only had five World Cup starts so far, but you scored a top-10 slalom finish in Flachau last January. What was that experience like?
MG: It was unbelievable. In the first run I nearly made a mistake with my inside ski at the third gate. Afterwards I just told myself, “Go fast, go fast, go fast,” because I was sure that I wouldn’t have any chance to get in the second run. When I realized that I would be in the top-30, I was happy because I liked the hill and wanted so badly to ski down a second time. Then I was at the start gate, and I just thought, “It’s so awesome to have the chance to be here. Now SKI!” While I was in the leader box I didn’t really realize what was happening around me, and it felt like I was in the eye of the hurricane. But it was amazing, and I’d give anything to feel it again.
MM: What was more exciting, finishing in 9th place at that race or the fact that you had the fastest time in the second run?
MG: Both were very exciting, but the second run will always have a special place in my heart.
MM: What does a finish like that do to your confidence?
MG: It showed me that anything is possible, and that every second of training is totally worth it.
MM: Michaela Shiffrin won that race. She once told me the sound of slalom gates being bashed makes a rhythmic, musical sound in her head. What do you hear when you’re bashing slalom gates?
MG: I can understand that. I feel the same, and there are songs I listen to that sound a lot like gate bashing. I use these songs to prepare during inspection, training etc…
MM: Dominique didn’t race that day. Have you ever beaten your older sister in a ski race?
MG: I was already faster than Dom in slalom, and I’m working hard to challenge her in GS, but that’s a bit far away at the moment.
MM: How about your brother Marc…ever beat him in a ski race?
MG: No and I never will (she says with a huge smile)!
MM: Have your siblings ever given you any ski racing advice?
MG: Yes, I always want to show them my training videos and they help me very much.
MM: What’s best piece of ski racing advice you’ve ever been given and who gave it to you?
MG: Oh I can’t give all my secrets away, but I can tell you the advice came from my coach Denis last season!
MM: What’s the best advice you would give a young racer?
MG: Have fun!
MM: Where will you be doing most of your racing this coming season? Europa Cup? World Cup? A mix of both?
MG: It depends on how I ski next season. I’m hoping for a good mix.
MM: How has training been going this summer?
MG: Everything has been going well and I already had my first ski days in Zermatt, which I really liked. It was awesome to be on snow again! The physical
training was cool and I learned a lot.
MM: Have you had any time off for a holiday this summer? Visit any beaches?
MG: I haven’t had much time off, but any time off I’ve had I’ve really enjoyed!