With every win these days, Mikaela Shiffrin breaks a record (or approaches one) or joins an exclusive club of the greatest skiers in modern history.
Asked what she thought of that kind of chatter to which media clings, she said, “I don’t consider myself a record chaser,” on a U.S. Ski and Snowboard media call Wednesday.
“My opinion of the sport and of what I want to do in the sport is to be considered one of the best technical skiers and essentially to win,” Shiffrin said. “Not to win a certain number of races, but just to be able to get in the start and have the ability to be the best racer on any given day in any given event.
“With that comes winning races and getting closer to these records. I’m not chasing that. These people who have come before and who have set these records, I don’t feel like I’m ever going to compete with that.”
What the 23-year-old from Vail, Colo., has done is become a factor no matter the event, no matter the location. Shiffrin became the seventh woman to earn a World Cup win in all five disciplines with her first super-G victory on Sunday in Lake Louise, Alberta. She took a more aggressive line than speed specialists with far more experience.
Her steady increase in training and racing the speed events of downhill and super-G the last few years was done “with the hope that at some point I would be able to be a contender to win in all disciplines,” she said. “I think the point for me was not necessarily to actually be the best in every discipline, but more just to be one of the people that every time I get in the starting gate, everyone’s watching because they know that I can. I have the ability. I think that’s where I’m at right now.”
When looking at her finishes this past weekend — ninth and fourth in downhills followed by the super-G win — consider that the vast majority of Shiffrin’s training this fall has been for her trademark technical events of slalom and giant slalom. Also consider that she has more experience at Lake Louise than the rest of the speed venues on the World Cup.
The circuit moves to St. Moritz, Switzerland, for a super-G on Saturday and a parallel slalom on Sunday, live on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA and NBC Sports Gold. A full weekend TV schedule is here. Shiffrin is a clear favorite in the latter and some sort of a contender in the former, having placed 20th in the super-G there last year in her lone speed start at the two-time Winter Olympic host.
Her next win — her 47th — will move Shiffrin into sole position of fourth place on the women’s World Cup career wins list. Her next slalom win — her 35th — will tie Marlies Schild for the record in that discipline.
The stat that accompanies every Shiffrin victory is the number of wins she has attained before she turns 24 on March 13.
Lindsey Vonn had 13 at the same age, but what Vonn has done late in her career (23 wins in her 30s) is anomalous like Shiffrin’s early 20s resume. Ingemar Stenmark, the record holder with 86 victories, won 52 times before turning 24 in 1980. Annemarie Moser-Pröll, who held the female record before Vonn broke it, had 42 wins before age 24, with a one-year retirement mixed in. Different statistics can be used to argue different views.
“I’m sort of torn,” about the record talk and historical comparisons, Shiffrin said. “First of all, it’s an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as some of the all-time greatest skiers. So that is very flattering. But, in some ways, I don’t think it’s comparable.”
Shiffrin has said she will always consider childhood idol Schild the greatest slalom skier of all time.
“She was the one who made it possible for me to ski slalom the way that I do,” said Shiffrin, who as a teen studied video of Schild’s technique and said last month that she still watches the Austrian’s old runs. “So I can’t ever feel like, oh yeah, I took that record from her.”
Bode Miller was another of Shiffrin’s early inspirations. Like Shiffrin, Miller made his first Olympic team in slalom and giant slalom only. He went on to win at least five times in each discipline on the World Cup.
“It is an incredible feeling to know that my dream as a little girl, watching my big, all-time inspirations in the sport, that dream, I’ve been able to succeed and realize that dream,” Shiffrin said. “Now I guess the trick is just continuing to work.”
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