Mikaela Shiffrin admitted she could have not cared at all about Saturday’s slalom. Her focus was Friday’s giant slalom and locking up the season title in that discipline.
Yet as she approached the start gate in the early afternoon in Åre, Sweden, a familiar uncomfortable nervousness fell over her heart.
Shiffrin focused, propelled herself down the course, and 50 precise seconds later, broke the Alpine skiing World Cup wins record with her 87th victory.
“I still had the same feeling in the start of this run that I have every race,” she told Austrian broadcaster ORF.
With wins on back-to-back days, Shiffrin tied and then passed Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record of 86 World Cup wins. Stenmark was a slalom and giant slalom star of the 1970s and ’80s and held the record since January 1982.
Shiffrin prevailed Saturday by 92 hundredths of a second over Swiss Wendy Holdener combining times from two runs. Shiffrin raced on the 12th anniversary of her World Cup debut at age 15.
ALPINE SKIING: Full Results | Broadcast Schedule
Her celebration was trademark subdued. She took deep breaths, crouched and buried her head in her knees. Moments later, Swede Anna Swenn Larsson, who finished third, congratulated her.
“You are f—ing insane,” Swenn Larsson said.
Later on the podium, Holdener joked that she has finished in second place “25 times because of you.” Holdener has actually finished runner-up to Shiffrin in 12 World Cup races, but she summed up the reputation of quite a few excellent technical skiers over the last decade.
Shiffrin then looked over to her mom and coach, Eileen, who was with two at first unrecognizable people bundled up in winter clothing. It took Shiffrin a moment to realize it was her sibling, brother Taylor, and his wife, Kristiana Oslund, who flew to Sweden to surprise her.
Only recently did Stenmark’s wins record become a target. Breaking the record is great, but not a dream come true. She said that having her family there made the day among the most memorable of her career.
“It’s a little bit funny how something I never thought about can become important because of who’s talking about it,” she told Swiss broadcaster SRF. “Everyone’s talking about it, and it becomes important for the sport, or for the people who are around me, so that it becomes important for me, too. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.”
Shiffrin is up to 13 World Cup wins this season, the most for any man or woman in one season since her record 17-victory campaign in 2018-19. She is expected to race three more times at next week’s World Cup Finals in Andorra, live on Peacock.
On Saturday, she became the third skier to eclipse 2,000 points in one World Cup season (Tina Maze scored 2,414 in 2013, and Shiffrin had 2,204 in 2019). Each race winner receives 100 points on a descending scale through one point for the 30th-place skier.
There is always another number to chase, and for Shiffrin, the obvious one is 100. She is expected to race at least through the next Winter Olympics in 2026, giving her at least three more World Cup seasons. She averaged eight wins per season since her first World Cup victory in December 2012.
Aside from that round number, these are the athletes with the most World Cup wins across Winter Olympic sports: Marit Bjørgen (114, cross-country skiing), Gunda Niemann-Stirnemann (98, speed skating) and Ole Einar Bjørndalen (95, biathlon).
Perhaps the most wild part of all this isn’t that Shiffrin broke the record, but the idea that she may be nowhere close to done winning.
“It’s pretty hard to describe and not over yet, which is even more ridiculous,” she said. “I shouldn’t feel pressure, but somehow I feel something in my heartbeat. That’s the anticipation that we want to feel in ski racing. I have it. It’s stronger than ever.”
OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!Follow @nzaccardi