Mikaela Shiffrin reset the women’s Alpine skiing World Cup wins record with her 83rd career victory, breaking her tie with Lindsey Vonn by taking a giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday.
Shiffrin prevailed by 45 hundredths of a second over Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami combining times from two runs. She reacted with typical non-exuberance, hunching over her skis and breathing hard as if exhausted. Moments later, she turned to the crowd and pumped her right arm in the air five times.
“I was feeling less pressure,” about the record, Shiffrin said. “This number 83, it was almost completely out of my mind today. … I guess it’s very fitting that it would come in the moment when I actually am thinking about it the least and don’t expect it at all.”
Shiffrin began the season eight victories behind Vonn. Shiffrin had 74 wins over the previous 10 years, including six, three and five the previous three years. If recent form held, the pursuit of Vonn’s record was supposed to be season-long, perhaps longer.
She caught Vonn less than halfway through the season and passed her with 14 races still to go surrounding February’s world championships. She is now three wins shy of the overall record of 86 held by Ingemar Stenmark, a Swedish slalom and giant slalom ace of the 1970s and ’80s.
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, conjuring 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 try, although the last three races were in super-G and downhill, events that 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.
Upon tying Vonn two weeks ago, Shiffrin reflected in a 35-minute chat with her publicist.
She talked about the chatter when she returned to the World Cup in late 2020, still grieving from her father’s death. “Everyone’s like, well, she just lost it, and she’s just probably not going to win again,” she remembered.
She mentioned the negative headlines after missing the medals at last year’s Olympics. She spoke of feeling unprepared going into a recent stretch of races due to insufficient training. She laughed off the daily questions about records and win totals, statistical pursuits that she does not prioritize.
How to explain Shiffrin’s return to dominance? She watched a a mid-December chairlift interview between retired Liechtenstein skier Tina Weirather and Italian Sofia Goggia, the world’s top downhiller. Goggia spoke about her disdain for mediocrity.
“Ever since then, pretty much every time I put on my skis, I’m like, ‘OK, don’t be mediocre today,'” Shiffrin said two weeks ago.
What’s next? There is Stenmark’s record, and with how sports work, there is a number beyond that. Stenmark predicted last year that she will finish with more than 100 wins.
Her next race is another GS in Kronplatz on Wednesday. Shiffrin said after tying Vonn two weeks ago that she didn’t think she will break Stenmark’s record this season.
“I know it’s possible. Like we have a lot of races left, and there’s not that many ’til I get to that number,” she said. “But I know I might not win another race this season. And people will be like, ‘Oh, my gosh, you were so close. What happened?’ And I’m like, ‘That’s ski racing.'”
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