Iga Swiatek and Mikaela Shiffrin's social media friendship took another step this week with an Instagram Live conversation in which they discussed dealing with pressure and the importance of psychology.
Both are Laureus World Sports Awards nominees this year - Roland Garros champion Swiatek for Breakthrough of the Year and two-time Olympic gold medallist skier Shiffrin for Comeback of the Year. Back in February, Swiatek had told Tennis Channel that Shiffrin was a role model for her in terms of competitive resilience, so this interview proved an opportunity to learn even more from the 26-year-old.
Shiffrin has also experienced the unique feeling of being a teenage champion. The American remains the youngest slalom champion in Olympic alpine skiing history, having won gold in the discipline at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics when she was 18 years old. She was thus in the perfect position to dole out wise words as Swiatek's Roland Garros title defence approaches.
"I don't know how I'm going to react," Swiatek said. "I've never been in a situation like that, even at a normal tournament, so I think we're going to be prepared for anything and we're just going to adjust. Everybody's going to have expectations so you just have to be in your own world."
Shiffrin's advice was to focus on the positives.
"The way people talk about it is like almost as if it's some negative thing," she said. "That it's like a big thunderstorm that's coming and and it's going to be so difficult to handle. I said, I don't know, why don't we just be happy about it? Because it's a really great position to be in. Any question you get, if it's positive, then just go with it. But if it's ever trying to put pressure on you... change it in your mind, just to think what a cool position I'm in to be a defending champion already in my career."
I am honored with the Laureus Award nomination among such great athletes and I would like to thank everyone who voted for me. The motto of Laureus Award is about having the power to change the world by sport. I truly believe it is possible. @LaureusSport pic.twitter.com/fy5H4B97mZ— Iga Świątek (@iga_swiatek) March 1, 2021
Swiatek and Shiffrin also discussed the importance of building a legacy in their sports that would last beyond their results.
"There's so much stuff that can develop in tennis in Poland, it's not going to be that hard to find a way to actually change something," Swiatek said. "I have some ideas right now. Before the French Open, I was just focusing on myself. Actually, nothing really changed after the tournament. But I'm approaching sports in a different way. And I am actually thinking sometimes about what I'm going to leave behind."