At just 27 years old, Mikaela Shiffrin has been stacking World Cup victories at a lightning pace.
By Onyi Afoaku
On Sunday, alpine skier Mikaela Shiffrin claimed victory on the giant slalom to bring her World Cup victory total to a staggering 82 wins. That ties Lindsey Vonn’s previous record among women.
The record-tying win by the 27-year-old phenom comes against a deep and talented field. It also begs the question: How many can she win before her career is over? A week before Christmas, she was six victories shy of Vonn’s total of 82. Originally, many wondered if she could catch Vonn this season. Shiffrin’s results since then: first, first, first, first, first, sixth, first.
The latest result came in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on a giant slalom where Shiffrin beat the field of Olympic and World Cup champions. She won by nearly a quarter of a second on the first run and by two tenths of a second on the second run. The sum total was 77 hundredths of a second faster than Italy’s Frederica Brignone. That is a massive margin in ski racing. Shiffrin is currently peerless in the sport. She could soon be peerless in history.
“I was so nervous in the second run,” Shiffrin told reporters Sunday in Slovenia, in an audio shared by U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association. “I don’t know exactly why, because I said that I don’t care about the number and I just focus on the skiing. I was just more nervous than maybe I’ve ever been.”
Shiffrin is known to have a history of battling nerves.
“I have a rash on my face from it. I don’t know. Just happy to be here now.” She is still in the prime of her career at only 27 years old. She is breaking records usually reserved for the end of one’s career. She is also doing some of the best skiing of her career.
“I hope I can ski like that again,” she told The Washington Post. “Because it was maybe the best skiing I ever did in a GS.” Although things are going well now, that is no indicator of how future competitions will unfold. Her best season was 2018-19, when she won 17 times and reached the podium in four more over 26 starts. This year, she has eight victories in 15 races. There are eight technical events remaining—slalom and giant slalom, Shiffrin’s specialties—before the World Cup schedule comes to a close in March. She has five victories in the past six starts in those disciplines. She also has a victory in super-G. In short, anything seems possible, both this year and in her career.
Shiffrin took the weekend to rest and her first opportunity to pass Vonn will come in a super-G in Cortina on Friday. After that, the all-time mark for both men and women set by Ingemar Stenmark comes into play. The Swedish competitor won the last of his 86 World Cup victories in 1989, a month shy of turning 33. The pursuit of this record could create the types of headlines the sport desperately needs, even as Shiffrin tries to ignore the chatter.
“Maybe at some point people will stop talking about it,” Shiffrin said. “I’m trying not to think about it. Honestly, I’m trying not to change my goals for this record. Yeah, but it’s 82 victories. It’s a bit indescribable.”
That she and Vonn sit even makes it easy to compare the two. However, they are very different athletes and different people. While both won races across alpine disciplines, Vonn preferred the speed of downhill and its little sister, super-G, in which she posted 71 of her 82 World Cup wins. Shiffrin’s 51 slalom victories are the most of anyone in history, and Sunday was her 17th in giant slalom. Shiffrin put it best in a phone conversation back in November: “What I do, it doesn’t change anything that happened in her career.”
Recently, all the buzz around her record being approached, tied, or broken has seemingly left Vonn feeling nostalgic. Recently on Instagram, she posted a shot of her trophy case in her new house. It was packed with what are now skiing artifacts.
“With all this talk of records it has me reminiscing…” Vonn wrote. “Now it’s time for the next generation! Picabo Street inspired this 9 year old girl to ski 90 mph down a mountain, so I can’t wait to see what the generation of skiers Mikaela is inspiring will do next. Let’s go!”
Shiffrin sat out last weekend’s competitions in order to rest and is expected back Friday, where she will attempt a record-breaking 83rd World Cup Win on super-G in Cortina.
All competitions can be streamed live on Eurosports digital platforms and Discovery+.