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Mikaela Shiffrin makes history, breaks Lindsey Vonn’s record for skiing World Cup wins

  • January 24, 2023

To Mikaela Shiffrin goes the crown, literally and figuratively. 

The 27-year-old Shiffrin broke fellow American Lindsey Vonn’s record for World Cup victories by a female skier with her 83rd win on Tuesday, in a giant slalom race in Kronplatz, Italy. The winner of this race gets a large gold crown, and Shiffrin laughed as it was placed on her head during the victory ceremony. 

“It’s exciting. I’m happy. I’m proud. I’m thankful for the team and all the work we all do,” Shiffrin said. “It’s things I’ve said so many times now. It’s all still true today as it was the first race I ever did and the first win I ever had. It’s a feeling I can’t explain.”

She will now set her sights on the all-gender record of 86 victories, set by Swedish legend Ingemar Stenmark. Shiffrin could equal that mark as early as this weekend, with another giant slalom in Kronplatz on Wednesday and two slaloms in the Czech Republic this weekend. 

Shiffrin got the women’s record just over two weeks after matching it – continuing an incredible run of form that has left her towering over her peers in the sport. This was her ninth World Cup victory of the season, and her seventh win in her last 11 races.

And she did it in dominant fashion, winning both runs of the giant slalom in Kronplatz. When she crossed the finish line after the second run, Shiffrin briefly bent over before standing up and pumping her fist at the crowd.

Shiffrin finished 0.45 seconds ahead of Lara Gut-Behrami, a significant margin. The Swiss skier and Italy’s Federica Brignone, who were second and third respectively, applauded Shiffrin and then exchanged hugs with her. 

“Everything went quiet and I just pushed as hard as I could every turn,” Shiffrin said. “It was pretty amazing to come to the finish and see that I was quite fast.”

A four-time overall World Cup champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist, Shiffrin matched Vonn’s record with a GS win in Slovenia on Jan. 8. She was second in her first attempt at the record, a slalom in Flachau, Austria, two days later, and flirted with it over the weekend on the 2026 Olympic course in Cortina, Italy, finishing fourth in a downhill Friday and seventh in both a second downhill Saturday and a super-G on Sunday.

But Shiffrin’s best chances were always going to come this week, with two giant slalom races and another two in slalom. Of Shiffrin’s World Cup victories, 51 have come in slalom and another 17 in giant slalom.

“Speed (events) for me, it’s like a reset in my mind. It’s a different kind of challenge. It’s a place where I know I can win but I don’t expect to win. Ever,” Shiffrin said, referring to the races in Cortina. “So coming here, this, No. 83, it was almost completely out of my mind today. It’s like we’re just restarting the season. It’s kind of nice.

“It’s very fitting that it would come in the moment when I am actually thinking about it the least and don’t expect it at all,” she added. 

But Shiffrin served notice with her blistering first run that history was in the making. 

She has been unbeatable out of the gate this season, and this race was no different as she opened up a lead of 0.20 seconds in the first section of the Erta course, which was set by her coach, Mike Day.

Shiffrin slowed a bit on the next two sections before closing strong and fast. She gave a couple small pumps of her fist as she crossed the finish line, then waited to see if her lead would hold up. It did, and Shiffrin took a 0.13 lead over Gut-Behrami into the second run.

As the last skier to go on the second run, Shiffrin said she watched Gut-Behrami’s run. And immediately wished she hadn’t. 

“I was thinking, `Why did I watch? I can’t go that fast!'” Shiffrin said, laughing.

But she got out of the gate quickly again, then flew through the course with what has become her signature aggressive elegance. She doesn’t tame the course so much as she molds her body to it, flowing from one gate to the next. 

“I was a little wild in some spots but it felt so clean,” Shiffrin said. “I thought I wouldn’t be faster, but thought I could maybe be close. Somehow I got to the finish and it was quite good.”

Historic, to be precise. 

86 is the next record in sight

Next up now is Stenmark’s record, and Shiffrin could get to 86 wins in short order. After Wednesday’s race in Kronplatz, there are slaloms Saturday and Sunday in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic.

“I definitely don’t feel like I have a deadline,” Shiffrin said in an interview provided by her publicist ahead of the Jan. 10 slalom in Flachau, Austria, her first race after tying Vonn.

“I’m not writing, taking notes on what my next goal is. That’s not why I keep going out and train,” she added. “And hopefully that means if I get to the next record, it’s not all just going to come falling down. Hopefully my motivation is not going to just stop. I really hope that I don’t feel like, `That’s it’ and I don’t want to keep going and pushing and trying.”

But there will always be something else to chase. Already, there has been talk about whether – or when — Shiffrin can get to 100 World Cup victories, a mark that once seemed unfathomable.

Vonn, who retired in 2019, told a German newspaper last month that Shiffrin “is the best skier that has ever lived, in my eyes.”

“Reaching this milestone is an incredible accomplishment, one that I hope Mikaela is able to savor,” Vonn said in a statement provided by U.S. Ski and Snowboard. “As Americans, we have been able to produce incredible athletes, and I am excited to see who Mikaela will inspire to continue to push the limits of our sport. Congratulations on raising the bar for all skiers to come.” 

For Shiffrin, ‘the sky’s the limit,’ Vonn says

Shiffrin has been on a tear this season and, with nine World Cup wins already, is almost certain of reaching double digits for a fourth time in her career. At one point, she won five events in a row – the type of streak that is almost unheard of in the upper echelons of Alpine skiing, where events often come down to fractions of a second.

“I don’t think I can compare my shape right now to any time before,” Shiffrin said Saturday after the second downhill in Cortina. “For sure I’ve been very strong in seasons before, but right now, maybe for the first time, I’m not trying to go back to something I did before. I’m trying to just do what I need now to ski my fastest every day.

“But I’m in very good shape and then a lot of puzzle pieces fit well, for sure.”

Shiffrin’s season has been remarkable by any measure, but even more so given her struggles at the 2022 Beijing Olympics just 11 months ago.

One of Team USA’s most dynamic stars, Shiffrin arrived at the Games with hopes of competing in five events and winning perhaps as many medals. Instead, it was a disaster. She not only failed to medal, but also failed to finish three of her five individual events – an unfathomable collapse that she still couldn’t explain or understand months later.

“(People) want some kind of answer. And I genuinely don’t have one,” Shiffrin wrote in The Players’ Tribune of her performance in Beijing. “I could give you the media answer that I always give. I could put on a brave face and tell you some generic thing. But the real truth is… I don’t know.”

Upon her return from the Olympics, though, Shiffrin has returned to her usual level of dominance and zoomed past Vonn’s record. She had always been expected to break the mark, but this soon? 

Shiffrin doesn’t turn 28 until March, making her more than five years younger than Vonn was when Vonn won her last World Cup at 33. Stenmark won his 83rd World Cup race on his 30th birthday. 

With luck and good health, Shiffrin will still have dozens of World Cup events ahead of her – more records to break, and metaphorical mountains to conquer.

“I think that Shiffrin will win more than 100,” Stenmark told Olympics.com, “and it doesn’t make me sad at all.” 

Contributing: The Associated Press

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