Mikaela Shiffrin makes history for the US skier with her 87th World Cup win
Mikaela Shiffrin broke Ingemar Stenmark’s long-standing record for all-time World Cup victories with her 87th win on Saturday. The historic win in a slalom in Are, Sweden came just a day after Shiffrin equaled the Swedish legend’s record, a mark that had stood for 34 years.
“Pretty hard to get that idea,” Shiffrin said. “Holy crap.”
Just like on Friday, Shiffrin built up a huge lead of 0.69 seconds in heat one, with just two skiers within a second of her. With Wendy Holdener trying to make an attack, Shiffrin had to be aggressive but controlled in heat two, and she did just that. She pours through the narrowly spaced gates rather than fighting them and makes a furious dash towards the finish line.
Shiffrin crouched after crossing the finish line, buried her head in her knees and took a few seconds to let the magnitude of the moment sink in. Other skiers rushed over to congratulate her, and she was then surprised by her brother Taylor, who picked her up in a bear hug. Members of the US team passed around hats with the number 87 on them.
“Congratulations to you for breaking my record,” Stenmark said in an NBC video. “It was fantastic.”
Also dominant. Shiffrin finished a whopping 0.92 seconds ahead of Holdener from Switzerland. Sweden’s Anna Swenn Larsson was 0.95 seconds behind Shiffrin.
The win was Shiffrin’s 13th of the season, only her second after the record 17 races she won in 2019. She has won the overall, slalom and giant slalom season titles and now has 15 world globes for her career.
And the season is not over yet. The World Cup finals take place in Andorra next week and Shiffrin is expected to compete in slalom, giant slalom and super-G.
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The circle closes
There was a poetic symmetry to Shiffrin’s accomplishments this week.
It’s where Shiffrin claimed her first-ever World Cup victory in a slalom race in 2012, and it’s also in Stenmark’s home country. Stenmark’s last World Cup win came in Aspen, Colorado, the state where Shiffrin grew up and is still home during the offseason.
Stenmark wasn’t in Are to see his record fall. He rarely appears in public and told The Associated Press last month that he wanted to be respectful of Sweden’s skiers. Sweden had two women in the top 10 on Saturday, and Sara Hector was third in giant slalom on Friday.
But Stenmark followed Shiffrin’s quest for his record and counts herself among her fans.
“I think she can win more than 100,” Stenmark told the AP. “It depends on how many years she goes on. But certainly 100.”
An unbeatable record falls
By the time Stenmark retired, his 86 wins seemed like a record that would never be matched. At the time, Annemarie Moser-Proell was number 2 on the list and had won 24 fewer races. Alberto Tomba, Hermann Maier, Marcel Hirscher – nobody could challenge Stenmark.
Lindsey Vonn came closest, winning 83 World Cup races before her body collapsed and she had to retire.
However, Shiffrin has always been in a different class. She made her World Cup debut at 15 and won her first World Cup race at 17. This is her fourth season of double-digit wins.
While it took Stenmark 15 seasons to accumulate his 86 wins, Shiffrin has reached 87 in 11.
And unlike many skiers who excel in either speed or technical disciplines, Shiffrin has won in every discipline. In addition to her 53 victories in slalom and 20 in giant slalom, she has won five World Cup races in both Super-G and parallel, three in downhill and one in alpine combined.
“I’m also impressed that she can ski well in both slalom and super-G and also downhill,” Stenmark, who won all of the slalom and giant slalom, told AP. “I could never have been so good in all disciplines.”
When Shiffrin approached first Vonn and then Stenmark, there was nowhere she could go without being asked about the records. When would she get them? what would they mean
For someone who’s always been more concerned with the process than the prizes, Shiffrin acknowledged that over-focusing on the records was stressful.
“It’s actually been quite difficult to concentrate for the past few weeks,” she said on Friday. “But today wasn’t so bad. It was like if it happens, it happens. If it happens.”
Shiffrin’s historic season comes a year after her career hit rock bottom.
As a two-time Olympic gold medalist before her 23rd birthday, Shiffrin should rack up a slew of medals at last year’s Beijing Games. Instead, she came home empty-handed, recording DNFs in three of her five individual races.
“I’m not going to fail any bigger. Probably. And I survived,” Shiffrin said earlier this year. “I realized that pretty much anything is survivable. Everything that will happen in my skiing career is absolutely survivable. No matter what it is, great or terrible, it’s just not the end of the world. There are bigger things happen in life. And I’ve experienced it.”
She was referring to the sudden death of her father, Jeff, in February 2020. Shiffrin has been open about how unbound she was by her grief, and she is still surrounded by memories of him. After claiming her 85th win in Spindleruv Mlyn in January, she recalled her father being by her side in her first World Cup race.
But she is finally able to get over her grief and look forward to other things in her life. And with her 87th win behind her, the weight was lifted.
“It’s a pretty spectacular position,” Shiffrin said on Friday. “I don’t take it for granted to be in this place where people ask me when I win 86 or when I win 87. That’s a pretty cool place.”