TODAY | February 04, 2014
>> it is time for "today's" olympic start. the action here in sochi starts on thursday. and one athlete you do not want to miss is 18-year-old mikaela shiffron. she could make a big name for herself at these games.
>> into the lead.
>> and gold!
>> she has been described as a talent that comes along once in a lifetime .
>> she's done it.
>> at the ender age of 17, she became the youngest american champion in history.
>> it was like everything in slow motion .
>> capturing the world cup title by 18.
>> youngest skier to win the globe in 40 years.
>> a pinnacle moment in a career that's only just begun.
>> her rise has been described as meteoric, but lifetime of planning. she recently graduated from a vermont boarding school for competitive skiers.
>> ski in the morning and do classes in the afternoon.
>> in her early years, she trained more and raced less. until now.
>> shiffrin into the lead.
>> guidance from mom and dad , her first coaches that seem to be paying off.
>> my mom and dad both raced. my dad raced for dartmouth. they're good athletes and skiers.
>> she didn't latch on to the sport immediately.
>> i was skiing by the time i was 2 1/2 years old, but i really didn't like careless rides. whenever i'm really cold, i get really tired. and so i'd fall asleep on every single ride until -- i still sometimes fall asleep. when i first started training when i was 6 years old, that was when i started to really find a passion for the sport.
>> discipline and focus did come naturally to shiffrin whose workouts are almost meditative.
>> it's another challenge trying to get rid of those nerves and fan all my energy.
>> a self-taught musician, she says skiing is not unlike music. rhythm she hears in her head. today, the teen splits her time between the u.s. and europe, basing herself with the u.s. ski team in austria. every step of the way is mom eileen, an unusual arrangement not always popular with everyone on the team. she wouldn't have it any other way.
>> i think it's an advantage to have my mom with me. she's one of my best friends. i ask her what she thinks about my schedule.
>> and with success already on her side --
>> lindsey vonn , into the lead.
>> comparison to another skiing phenom are inevitable.
>> it's really flattering, lindsey has been one of my idols since i knew what skiing was, really. but there's only room for one lindsey vonn on the circuit.
>> don't let her humility fool you, mikaela shiffrin is headed to sochi to win.
>> that might sound cocky, but i think it's important to see yourself where you want to be.
>> just to show you what a big deal she is, here she is on one of the four " sports illustrated " olympic covers. congratulations to her.