For Mikaela Shiffrin, Tuesday was more than just another giant slalom. Shiffrin’s victory in Kronplatz, Italy was the 83rd World Cup victory of her career, giving her the most wins in history by a female skater.
On a gray afternoon, Shiffrin did what she does best – winning from the front, leading the standings after a steep and windy first sprint, then delivering a clean, hard and aggressive second run to win by 45 one-hundredths of a second, a characteristically wide margin for a woman who is arguably Now the greatest female alpine skier is squeezing boots into the laces.
Shiffrin bent at the waist after stopping, pumped her fist and ski pole twice, then began a long series of congratulatory hugs.
Lindsey Vonn, another American star and role model for Shiffrin – although Vonn specializes in sprints and Shiffrin specializes in slalom – is the former female sport’s standard-bearer with 82 World Cup wins. Shiffrin now needs just four more wins to break Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins, the most by a male or female skater.
Even after all these years and victories, Shiffrin said she was nervous as she waited on top of the hill for her second run.
“Finally when it was time to go,” she said, “everything calmed down and I pushed on as hard as I could.”
For Shiffrin, 27, Tuesday’s giant slalom record-breaking is the latest achievement in a stellar career that began when she was still in her early teens more than a decade ago. she burst onto the scene As a ski prodigy, seemingly destined for greatness, the daughter of two competing skiers who began perfecting her turn at the age of eight under the lights on frigid New Hampshire nights at Storrs Hill – a 300-foot vertical drop. A little hill, yes, but it’s also the chance for a lot of running and turns.
However, no one is destined for anything in alpine skiing. The sport basically has a 100 percent injury rate, and nearly every rider at some point experiences a career-threatening accident. Shiffrin has miraculously managed to avoid that fate so far, making her path to Tuesday’s record-breaking faster and more convenient.
She was the youngest American skater to achieve so much in her career with only one big flaw — her inability to win a medal, or even complete most of her races, at the Beijing Olympics. Still won at The overall title of the 2022 World Cup She managed to win a downhill race just weeks after the chaos in Beijing.
Her mother and coach, Elaine Schifrin, said in an interview this month that the Beijing disappointment set the stage for a period of personal growth last summer that will bear fruit for years.
“These will be lessons for life,” she said.
The trip was a whirlwind, and by all accounts, and most importantly Schiffrin’s, it looks like there’s still a long way to go. She brought in a new trainer and technician ahead of the season, and whether she won 83 races or nothing, she tried to find peace in the process.
After her 80th win, Shiffrin took a rare moment to reflect on the breadth of the accomplishment, telling her mom that while some people might think winning would be easy, nothing could be further from the truth.
Ellen Shifrin said her daughter told her, “Every one of these wins took a lot of effort.” “You can’t believe how much effort it takes. I haven’t been able to easily win another race.”
This seemed very unlikely, Shiffrin has already won 80 of her 230 starts, which is a 35 percent win rate across all five disciplines in a sport where top skaters can go years between victories.
The American ski instructor began hearing about Shiffrin before she was even in her teens even though she raced a lot less than most juniors. She wowed the coaches at Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont, one of the country’s premier factories for alpine talent, but she spent most Saturdays training rather than traveling for hours in a car for a race. Her father, Jeff, believes there is much more value in those extra hours on the ice than collecting ribbons and medals that no one will soon care about.
By the time she made her World Cup debut on March 15, 2011, Shiffrin seemed to have the kind of unnatural poise that allowed her to turn a 60-turn slalom into a kind of dance on an ice slope. The gates were not so much obstacles as opportunities for her to gain more speed.
A month later, she became America’s youngest alpine national champion.
The first of 83
This was a rare occasion when Shiffrin missed her deadline, but she was absolutely amazing nonetheless.
Shiffrin achieved her first World Cup win in Ar, Sweden, in December 2012, with a come-from-behind victory over Frida Hansdotter by 29 percent of a second. The win made her the youngest Women’s World Cup winner since Switzerland’s Lara Gutt in 2008, and the second-youngest American to win a World Cup race. Jodi Nagel was three months younger than Shiffrin when she won the slalom in 1969.
Shiffrin said at the time that the two races weren’t perfect. Ski racing is never going to be. But they were both fast, and that was good enough.
When that first world championship arrived on a gray February afternoon in 2013, Shiffrin’s face betrayed something closer to relief and exhaustion than exhilaration. She didn’t jump or roll in the snow or even lift her skis in the air triumphantly. She closed her eyes, hugged another rider, and started to walk a bit but soon got down on one knee and rested her head on her skates.
“I was so nervous to get out of the beginning,” she said when it was over. “But when I got to the start, I felt alive and ready to race.”
It was an early hint that Schiffrin, World Champion at the age of 17 After pulling off another come-from-behind victory, he’s cut from a different cloth than most skaters. Shiffrin is the first to admit to being a bit of a worry. She sometimes does word searches and other mountaintop puzzles before races to calm her nerves. And when victories come, they are more of a release than anything else, especially as the world wonders if the slalom princess nicknamed the slalom wonder can keep winning under the lights of the World Championships.
Yes she can.
Smallest Alpine gold medal
When it was over, the numbers indicated he wasn’t even close. Under the lights in Russia in Rosa Khutor, Shiffrin held a more than half a second lead over Austria’s Marlis Shield to win Olympic gold in the slalom.
But there was that moment halfway up the hill in the second turn, the insanely fast left turn that sent her airborne, and she landed on the back half of her right skate as she headed into the next turn. She was headed for a split second, and by the next day, she had somehow recovered, stabilizing herself as she hurtled through the gate. After several gates it was back in action after that, winding its way to the end.
“I’ve done this recovery in practice a hundred times, if not more,” Shiffrin said after the race. So I said, ‘You know what you’re doing — charge back into the course. “
win over Home Snow
Winning a snowboard slalom title at home can be harder than it looks.
When Shiffrin climbed into the Beaver Creek starting hut for the 2015 World Championships, it had been 18 years since a woman had won gold in slalom when her country was hosting the event, the biggest ski meet other than the Olympics. In Shiffrin’s case, she’s been competing on the road from her home in the Colorado mountains. Phil Beaver Creek is its main resort.
At just 19, she hit the first slump of her career, having lost three slalom races earlier in the season and sometimes struggling to get to the podium. But she grabbed the lead on her first run, snoozing on the hill 30 minutes into her second, and although she started it slowly, she hit the final stretch to She wins her second world championship.
Another different Olympian went
The alpine skiing competition at the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, has been in shambles from the start. Freezing temperatures and high winds wreaked havoc on the schedule, and when officials finally determined the mountain was safe to compete, the women’s giant slalom and slalom were scheduled for consecutive days.
Shiffrin came out shooting in the giant slalom, Winning the gold medal With fast, technically sound runs, he became only the third American to win multiple Olympic gold medals in the Alps. However, winning a gold medal can lead to a long day of interviews, galas, and celebrations. By the time Shiffrin fell asleep, her bedtime was well past 9 p.m., and the slalom competition was scheduled for the next morning.
Nerves caused her to vomit before the race, and by the time it was over, she was fourth in her signature event. She described the result as “a very big disappointment” but got back at it winning the silver medal in the common event.
She did not know what kind of disappointment awaited her at the next Olympics.
So many races, so many falls
Shiffrin is in Beijing for the 2022 Olympic Games He preferred to win multiple medals In a career that has produced two golds and a silver, it was the next step in her quest to become the most decorated female skater ever to compete on the international scene. instead of it, Her flight turned into an abyss: Two DNF’s (didn’t finish) in giant slalom and slalom, followed by 9th- and 18th-place finishes in Super-G and downhill, and then another DNF all together.
The death had many possible causes. A case of Covid-19 and 10 days of isolation earlier in the winter, a painful one last November that cost her valuable practice, even the sudden her father’s deathin an accident at the family home in Colorado in 2020.
“Right now I feel like a joke,” Shiffrin said after the final fall.
Winning the overall title a few weeks later would have provided a little salve, but not much more than that.
Her mother described the Beijing Olympics as “devastating and traumatic”, an experience that “will hurt forever”, but there was an upside.
“If she had some medals, she probably wouldn’t have pursued the self-improvement she had achieved over the summer,” she said.
in hot pursuit
As the 2022-23 season dawned, getting over Vonn seemed like a stretch.
Shiffrin needed eight wins to tie and nine to overtake Vaughn, who retired in 2019. She hasn’t posted double-digit victory totals in a single season in three years. Covid-19 has certainly canceled races and messed up the schedule for several years, but locking down the sport’s Shiffrin is no longer certain.
Paul Kristovich, the U.S. women’s coach for the past eight years, said Shiffrin has spent a healthy portion of the off-season testing new equipment that will ensure she has the right ski for every type of hill and snow. There has been little discussion of winning more races than any other female skier.
“We don’t really talk about these records,” Kristovich said in an interview. “We’re really focused from week to week and place to place. Our business is in the moment.”
Then came Levi, Finland, where the season opened in November. Shiffrin has won back-to-back slalom events, with 75 and 76 career wins. Vaughn’s history suddenly seemed a lot closer.
“I try to let the pressure go but it’s always there,” she said. She later added, “When you win, it actually gets harder.”
The 77th win came in St. Moritz on December 18th in super-G, Shiffrin’s favorite in the sprint events. Super-G is all about flow and long but precise turns. When Shifrin finds her streak, she can stay on it like no one else. There are few things to love more on a ski mountain, especially one of the sport’s heralded destinations.
One day no one could beat her, she said: “When there is sun you can’t beat it here.”
Then Shiffrin got really hot, with three straight wins at Semmering, Austria, two in giant slalom and one in slalom to reach 80 wins.
“Well, it was a pretty crazy evening,” she said after her latest win. She had shared the podium for the first time with her longtime teammate and friend Paula Moltzan, who finished second. Shifrin said they couldn’t stop laughing as they sang the national anthem during the victory ceremony.
Winning the slalom in warm and breezy Croatia made it five in a row.
“I had a lot of fun,” she said, “I skated really well.” “Right now I feel like I’m just riding a wave and I’m going to ride it until it ends.”
Shiffrin collected the No. 82, which tied Vonn, in a giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia.
“speechless!!” her boyfriend, Norwegian figure skating champion Alexander Aamodt Kelde wrote on Twitter.
And then there is only one thing left – to win again.
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