Mikaela Shiffrin wins 50th World Cup, youngest to hit milestone

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Mikaela Shiffrin became the youngest Alpine skier to reach 50 World Cup wins and tied a childhood idol for the career slalom victories record, prevailing in Courchevel, France on Saturday.

Shiffrin won for the second straight day, for her fifth straight start and for the 14th time in 2018, extending her female World Cup record for one year.

She beat Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova by .29 of a second over two runs, making up a .04 deficit on the last split, 16 seconds before the finish. Full results are here.

A day after yelling at the finish line, out of character, Shiffrin was her quieter self on Saturday with a pair of subdued arm pumps while breathing heavily.

“Physically, my energy is good,” Shiffrin, who overcame a back injury and illness in recent weeks, said after having the fastest first run by .04 over Vlhova, “but mentally waking up is a struggle.”

The 23-year-old supplanted all-time wins leader Ingemar Stenmark as the quickest to 50 victories by age (by two months). However, Stenmark reached 50 wins in 100 starts, while Shiffrin did it in 142 starts. Lindsey Vonn did it in 297, according to Olympic historian Bill Mallon of the OlyMADMen.

“I was trying as hard as I could not to focus on [the 50 milestone] today because it’s so distracting to think about those numbers,” Shiffrin said. “There’s, like, a list of statistics and records that happened today, and I don’t even know what they are. … I’m not chasing these victories. I’m skiing freely.”

It’s likely Shiffrin gets to 60 World Cup wins before February’s world championships. The next five races through Jan. 8 are all giant slaloms or slaloms, Shiffrin’s specialties.

“I think she will beat all the records that you can beat,” said Swede Frida Hansdotter, who took slalom gold in PyeongChang (when Shiffrin was shockingly fourth) and was third on Saturday.

Shiffrin now has 35 slalom wins, matching retired Austrian Marlies Schild for the female record in that discipline. Shiffrin, who has 39 slalom wins if including head-to-head parallel events, still defers to Schild as the greatest female slalom skier ever.

“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 her old runs. “So I can’t ever feel like, oh yeah, I took that record from her.”

The World Cup moves to Semmering, Austria, for a giant slalom and slalom next weekend, streaming live on NBC Sports Gold.

“I’m going to go hibernate for the next four days,” Shiffrin joked.

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