But for now, carve only one. In the week before Christmas, he won six more than Vonn – a total of 82 wins. A reasonable question might be whether he can hold Lindsey. season?
The question had to be whether he could hold Lindsey this month. Shiffrin’s results since then: first, first, first, first, first, sixth, first.
Most recently, in the giant slalom event in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Sunday, Shiffrin beat a field of Olympic and World Cup champions by nearly a quarter of a second in the first run and two tenths in the second. The total was 77 hundredths of a second better than Italy’s Federica Brignone. In ski racing, it’s the back end. Shiffrin currently has no peers. There will be no peer in history.
“I was very nervous on the second run,” Shiffrin said in an audio recording shared by the US Skiing Association in Slovenia on Sunday. “I don’t know why, because I don’t care about numbers, I just care about skiing. I was more nervous than I’ve ever been.”
And that’s saying something, given his nervous history. Evidence, however: “I got a rash on my face because of it. I don’t know. I’m glad I’m here now.”
He should be. It’s worth considering, too, and putting it in the “terrible” category: He’s probably better than he’s ever been on skiing, having reached territory only the greats tread, setting records that are usually achieved late in his career. He is overly analytical and sometimes overly critical when it comes to skiing. But how is he racing now? It’s almost perfect.
“I hope to ski like this again one day,” he said, “because it was probably the best ski I’ve ever done in a GS.”
Of course, there are no guarantees, and how Shiffrin skied Sunday is not predictive of how she will ski the rest of the season. His best season came in 2018-19, when he won 17 times in 26 starts and finished on the podium in four. This season he has 8 wins in 15 races. Shiffrin has eight technical events, including slalom and giant slalom, before the world championships schedule ends in March. Given that he has five wins in his last six starts in those events, as well as a super-G win this season, anything seems possible this year and his career.
If Shiffrin gets past Vonn, the first chance will come in the slalom on Tuesday night in Flachau, Austria – Ingemar Stenmark is next. The great Swede won the last of his 86 world championships in 1989, a month shy of his 33rd birthday. Even if Shiffrin tries to put the interviewer in a box, lock the buckle, and throw away the key, the focus should be on the sport in the United States where it can be used.
“Maybe someday people will stop talking about it,” Shiffrin said. “I’m trying not to think about it. Honestly, I’m trying not to change my goals for that record. Yeah, but it’s 82 wins. It’s a little bit indescribable.”
But it’s worth a try. The fact that she and Vonn are sitting makes it easy and attractive to compare them and argue who is better. However, they are different athletes and people. While both have won all-mountain events, Vonn has a thirst for downhill speed and her younger sister Super G, posting 71 of her 82 world championship wins. Shiffrin has won 51 slaloms, more than anyone else in history, and Sunday marked her 17th in the giant slalom.
“What I’m doing is not going to change anything that’s happened in his career,” Shiffrin said in a phone call in November.
As history approaches, Mikaela Shiffrin continues to strive for perfection
For her part, Vonn seems to be resentful that her mark is close, now tied, and almost certainly surpassed. Late last week, he posted a photo of the trophy on Instagram in his new home, which is now filled with ski memorabilia.
“All this talk about the record is making me nostalgic,” Vonn wrote. “… Now it’s time for the next generation! Picabo Street inspired this 9-year-old girl to ski 90 mph down the mountain, so we can’t wait to see what the next generation of skiers Mikaela inspires.”
There is still the question of what Shiffrin will do next. Vonn’s total seemed inevitable, even though no one could see the freight train that could be reached in early 2023, so Shiffrin tiptoed cautiously, trying to make it clear that she would be honored to set a new mark and respect what Vonn had forged. updated his career, but determined that he was not motivated by numbers, not and never will be.
That’s impressive considering where he is in his career. At 27, it will be in his prime. Vonn raced until she couldn’t anymore, too many broken bodies to bow out at age 34, four times shy of Stenmark’s record.
Even in the midst of this run, Shiffrin considered retirement. His father died almost three years ago, and since his first World Cup appearance at the age of 16, he has struggled with the pressures of competing and traveling. More than ten years of this life suffer a lot. And there are times when you ask, if you’re not inspired by it, the posts…then why do it?
“If I make it through, I honestly hope it doesn’t change anything about what I did to get there or what motivated me,” Shiffrin said in November. “I want to be honest about how I feel and why I’m doing this. If I hit one of those records and stopped right away, I’d show that I’m not sincere about what I’ve been talking about before, about why I do it and what I like about it.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Maybe we’ll find out if I’m an honest man.”
I bet he’s here. The numbers may not be inspiring, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t intriguing. Eighty-three, 86 and 87 are not far behind. Beyond that? Ninety? One hundred? The area is unknown. But if motivation is the process and the pursuit of perfection rather than success or recognition, who’s to say Mikaela Shiffrin knows there’s no limit to what she can do in her sport?