Mikaela Shiffrin reset the women’s alpine skiing world championship with her 83rd career win, breaking her tie with Lindsey Vonn by taking on the giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday.
Shiffrin won by 45 hundredths of a second over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami combine times from two races. She responded with typically non-exuberance, bending over her skis and breathing heavily as if exhausted. Moments later, she turned to the crowd and pumped her right arm in the air five times.
“I don’t know if I can add anything,” she said in a Target Area interview. “It might take me a while to figure out what to say. I have a new YouTube episode coming out tonight or tomorrow. I think that kind of explains my feelings.”
Shiffrin began the season eight wins behind Vonn. Shiffrin had 74 wins over the previous 10 years, including six, three and five the previous three years. If recent form holds, the pursuit of Vonn’s record should be season-long, perhaps longer.
She caught Vonn less than halfway through the season and passed her with 14 races to go around February’s world championships. She is now three wins away from the overall record of 86 Ingemar Stenmarka Swedish slalom and giant slalom ace from the 1970s and 80s.
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Shiffrin is 27 years old and plans to ski at least through the next Olympics in three years. She has won nine times in 20 starts this fall and winter, evoking feelings of her peak 2018-19 season that included a record 17 victories.
After a Christmas break, she raced seven times in 15 days, winning five of them, plus the preceding super-G, to move into a tie with Vonn. She then broke the tie in her fifth attempt, although the last three races were in super-G and downhill, events in which she trains little and is not expected to win.
Shiffrin and those closest to her have called her skiing across slalom, giant slalom and super-G this season some of, if not the best of her career.
When he tied Vonn two weeks ago, Shiffrin reflected in a 35-minute chat with his publicist.
She spoke about the talk when she returned to the World Cup at the end of 2020, still grieving the death of her father. “Everybody’s like, well, she just lost it and she’s probably not going to win again,” she recalled.
She cited the negative headlines after missing out on the medals at last year’s Olympics. She talked about feeling unprepared due to insufficient training due to insufficient training. She laughed off the daily questions about records and win totals, statistical pursuits she doesn’t prioritize.
How to explain Shiffrin’s return to dominance? She saw an interview with a chairlift in mid-December between retired Liechtenstein skier Tina Weirather and Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s best downhiller. Goggia spoke of his disdain for mediocrity.
“Ever since then, pretty much every time I put my skis on, I’ve been like, ‘OK, don’t be mediocre today,'” Shiffrin said two weeks ago.
What’s next? There is Stenmark’s record, and with the way sports work, there is a number beyond that. Stenmark predicted last year that she will end up with more than 100 wins.
Her next race is another GS in Kronplatz on Wednesday. Shiffrin said after beating Vonn just two weeks ago that she didn’t think she would break Stenmark’s record this season.
“I know it’s possible. Like we’ve got a lot of races left and there’s not that many until I get to that number,” she said. “But I know I might not win another race this season. And people will say, ‘Oh, my God, you were so close. What happened?’ And I think, “It’s skiing.”
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