BEAVER CREEK, CO – To unwind, Italian downhill racer Dominik Paris sometimes screams into a microphone.
Not so much screams as hauntingly growls out lyrics he wrote himself.
Look around the World Cup tour and athletes rely on all sorts of tactics to unplug: American Travis Ganong opened a coffee business; teammate T ommy Ford is into art; Alice Merryweather gives tarot card readings when she's not strumming her ukulele; Canada's Laurence St-Germain immerses herself in college courses (she's working on her second degree) and three-time overall World Cup champion Mikaela Shiffrin does a little bit of everything ( sings, plays instruments, learns new dances, even tries to juggle ).
All these endeavors provide a measure of stress relief as they wait days, sometimes even weeks, before going fast again in a race. That's a long time to dwell only on results.
"The key thing is they're able to diversify their self-identity, so they're not just ski racers," said Jim Taylor, a former ski racer who's now a sports psychologist. "The bigger piece of the pie that's devoted to the sport, the more dangerous that can be in terms of over-investment. If their athletic identity represents, say, 80% of their self-identity and they have a bad day? That's an existential threat to who they are.
"But if there are some other things in their life that they can fall back on, it will enable them to get over the result and move on."