Mikaela Shiffrin breaks all-time World Cup Alpine ski wins record with slalom victory
American claims all-time wins record with slalom victory at the site of her first World Cup win in 2012
What was once imminent is now official. Mikaela Shiffrin stands alone atop the World Cup Alpine ski wins list.
Two days before her 28th birthday, the Edwards skier claimed her 87th World Cup victory, surpassing the mark set by Ingemar Stenmark over 30 years ago. Her combined two-run time on the Störtloppsbacken slope was 1 minute, 41.77 seconds, 0.92 seconds ahead of Swiss skier Wendy Holdener and 0.95 in front of Swede Anna Swenn-Larsson.
At the bottom, the FIS public address announcer brought up the phrase, “the greatest of all time.”
“Pretty hard to comprehend that thought,” Shiffrin said in a TV interview in the finish corral. “To the whole team and especially all the people who have helped me this whole season and my whole career. All the people who are reaching out now after all these years, it’s pretty incredible and I just want to say thank you for that.”
The victory, Shiffrin’s 13th this season, comes exactly 12 years to the day after her first World Cup race. She made her debut as a 15-year-old in a giant slalom in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic.
In her first run Saturday, the American icon was the fifth starter and gained time on then-leader Holdener at every checkpoint. With the fastest splits in all but one sector, Shiffrin’s 50.93-second mark was 0.69-seconds faster than hometown favorite Swenn-Larsson and 0.94 ahead of Holdener in third. American Paula Moltzan sat in fifth, 1.27 seconds back.
“It’s nice to race today. After such an incredible day yesterday, I feel like no pressure,” Shiffrin said after the first run.
“I need to do a really good second run as well, but I felt pretty perfect on the first run, so I’m very happy with that,” she continued.
“Yesterday was such a big day, it’s hard to imagine another day happening like that. So many things can happen, especially in slalom … so I’m not taking that for granted.”
Petra Vlhova’s coach Matej Gemza’s second-run course set-up opened the door for potential mistakes. It demanded fleet feet as skiers were forced into a quick tempo and high speeds. Instead of derailing Shiffrin, it served to highlight her trademark technical proficiency and nimble athleticism.
Before the American took to the course, however, Sweden’s own teen prodigy tried to pull her own Mikaela. Seventeen-year-old Cornelia Oehlund aggressively charged the course with zero restraint, giving the crowd flashbacks of a then 17-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin’s first World Cup win at the same location back on Dec. 20, 2012. Oehlund’s lead only lasted four skiers, though — a stark reminder of just how rare Shiffrin’s prodigious teenage years were.
With four skiers remaining, Moltzan skied a courageous second run to pass up Laurence St. Germain of Canada. Next came Hanna Aronsson Elfman, who was delighting the crowd with a blistering pace, but straddled a gate in the second sector. The DNF kept Moltzan in first as Holdener stepped into the starting gate.
The Swiss skier didn’t hold back, showing the form that nearly gave her a world title back in February (where she skied out at the end of the second run). Holdener’s 51.87-second run would give her a 0.03-lead over Swenn-Larsson, who made a late error to slide into second. Moltzan was pushed to third and would ultimately finish just off the podium in fourth.
“Maybe I was a little bit nervous because of that,” Holdener said afterward in reference to her World Championship DNF. “So, really happy that I could fight for the win with Mikaela.”
“It felt like from the start I was flying out,” said Swenn-Larsson, “I didn’t have my best run but I’m happy to put down a podium here in Are.”
Then, all eyes shifted back to the top of the hill in hopes of witnessing history.
Instead of playing it safe, Shiffrin rewrote the record book in the same manner she entered the sport: with her foot on the gas pedal. She gained 0.04-seconds on the first sector, remained poised through the next two, and carved up the closely-set gates at the bottom to finish with nearly a one-second victory.
“That’s the best feeling, to ski on the second run,” Shiffrin said of her 53rd World Cup slalom win, also an all-time record. “Of course, you want to win, have a lead, so you have to sort of be smart but also I just wanted to be fast and ski the second run like it’s a race. I did it exactly how I wanted, so that’s amazing.”
“She’s a champ. When you think that many wins in so less years, it’s crazy,” Holdener added.
“I’m so impressed; she’s such a great athlete and person,” added Swenn-Larsson. “She’s unbelievable and it’s really cool to race against her and I hope to beat her one or two more times before I’m done. That would be my goal.”
At the bottom, Shiffrin embraced her brother, Taylor, and sister-in law, Kristi, who surprised her by flying in from the U.S. at the last minute.
“I can’t put a name with the numbers,” Shiffrin said later in the day in a U.S. Ski and Snowboard press release. “I don’t know how to define that. When you have these special moments like being on the podium with Paula Moltzan in Semmering, seeing my brother and Kristi and my mom in the finish today — that’s what makes it memorable.”
Shiffrin’s resume now includes three Olympic medals, 14 World Championship medals — the modern-era record — and 15 crystal globes. By the look and sound of it, there appears to be no slowing down, either.
“It’s not over yet, which is even more ridiculous!” she continued.
“I still had the same feeling at the start of this run that I have every race — I shouldn’t feel pressure, but somehow I feel something in my heartbeat. That’s the anticipation we want to feel as ski racers and I have it — it’s stronger than ever. I’m just getting started.”
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