Mikaela Shiffrin Is Closing in on World Cup Skiing History
The American tied Lindsey Vonn’s record of 82 career World Cup wins—the most by a woman. She’s now just four away from Ingemar Stenmark’s all-time mark.
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“Simply the Best.” The chorus that played in the finish area of Sunday’s World Cup giant slalom said it all, as Mikaela Shiffrin clinched her 82nd World Cup victory, tying the record set by American Lindsey Vonn. After her 6th place finish on Saturday, Shiffrin said she’d need patience to match the record that she started building ten years ago. She had to wait one day.
Shiffrin started the race with bib 1, and never relinquished her lead, winning both runs and taking the victory over Italy’s Federica Brignone by .77 seconds. Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami finished 3rd. The ever-composed Shiffrin let out a scream as she crossed the line, then leaned over and put her head in her hands to take in the moment.
“I was so nervous this run,” Shiffrin said immediately afterwards. “I have a rash on my face I was so nervous. I don’t know why, maybe a little bit was because of 82. I just really wanted to ski well, and I did.”
The day started with an even faster course than Saturday’s screamers. Shiffrin’s winning time was a full two seconds faster than the winning pace a day earlier. Only Italy’s Brignone, and Saturday’s surprise winner, Valerie Grenier of Canada, were within a half-second of Shiffrin.
“I couldn’t ski faster,” Shiffrin said after the run. “I felt much, much better this first run than yesterday. I had to try to change my feeling from yesterday. It was very good skiing and I’m happy with that.”
Conditions on Kranska Gora’s Podkoren slope appeared to deteriorate more in the warm temperatures Sunday, making for a bumpier ride down the hill that gets no direct sunlight. That, combined with a turn-heavy set on the second run course, created especially tough conditions for the top skiers, who ran in reverse order. Several of the women near the top of the order shuffled positions, with Gut-Behrami and Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova finding a way to smooth out the course and gain ground.
Then came Brignone, in attack mode and taking every risk—and the lead. Shiffrin, as she has been in so many races this year, seemed unstoppable, her skis glued to the snow but also finding the fall-line more than on Saturday, and her lead never in doubt. When she came through the finish, winning the race and the run, she not only tied the record but also asserted that the best is yet to come.
“It was a fight. But it was pretty amazing conditions and I got a report from the coaches and they were like, ‘It’s really attackable, so just go for it,’” she said. “I’ve been in this position before and I’ve given it away and today I wanted to fight for it.” Afterwards, Shiffrin noted that her run was among the best she’s ever skied. “I just felt so good with my skiing and that’s the most special thing.”
On the podium, and afterwards in interviews, Shiffrin let the tears flow, noting that it was her father, Jeff, who, before she won her first World Cup, instructed her to memorize the words of the national anthem. “He said, ‘If you ever win, you’d better sing it,’ so I always think of him when I’m up there.” On this day, she reflected on her father, who passed away tragically in 2020. “Most races these days I’ll think of him and be able to refocus and that’s been a big improvement for me since last season.”
Shiffin also noted how exciting it is to be part of the broader success of American skiers, who, despite the challenge of spreading limited resources across such a huge country, manage to find success in this European-dominated sport. “When I look around now at my teammates—Paula, Nina, all of these women—it makes me realize when you do focus that energy in the right way, actually how many of us can be on the top and it makes the future for me even more exciting than anything our team has accomplished in the past,” she said.
It was indeed a good day for North Americans, with five making the second run behind Shiffrin. They were led by Saturday’s unexpected victor, Canada’s Grenier in 6th. Paula Moltzan bumped up her game and smoothed out the course, finishing 8th. Teammate Nina O’Brien continued her comeback from injury, scoring points in 25th, just behind Canadian Britt Richardson in 24th.
As for the numbers, despite the patience it took, Shiffrin achieved this record with blazing speed. It took Vonn 13 years and 13 major injuries over 395 races. As Vonn told commentator Steve Porino, “I literally bled for that record.” Shiffrin, who has had no major injuries, got here in ten years and 233 races.
Vonn had nothing but respect and encouragement for Shiffrin, telling the AP: “I’m really happy for Mikaela. Records are meant to be broken and it’s a sign of progress. And if anyone is to break my record, I’m really happy that it’s an American. She’s going to continue pushing the limits and continue to inspire other Americans. There were a lot of women who paved the way for me. And now it’s her turn to pave the way for the next generation.”
At age 27, and with eight victories in this season alone so far, it appears Shiffrin has much more in the tank. Her 17 GS victories are second only to Vreni Schneider’s 20. Next up to slay is the all-time record of 86 wins by Ingemar Stenmark, though Shiffrin is mindful of keeping the hunt for records from getting in the way of her goals.
“If I get there, I hope that I can keep it in my own head in a way that it’s not a relief to get to 86 because it would be such a shame to feel relieved about 86 victories,” she admitted. “I should just celebrate whatever comes for the next races and for the rest of my career because I don’t want to ruin it with chasing some record that probably shouldn’t be broken.”
Sunday’s win extended Shiffrin’s lead in the World Cup standings. With 1,115 points she now leads Vlhova by 419 points, and trails GS leader Marta Bassino by only 25 points.
Shiffrin returns to competition on Tuesday in Flachau, where she has notched four wins.