Mikaela Shiffrin is chasing Ingemar Stenmark once again.
After a break for the world championships, where she won gold in giant slalom and silvers in slalom and super-G, Shiffrin returns to the World Cup circuit this weekend in Kvitfjell, Norway. She is one win shy of tying Stenmark’s all-time record of 86 World Cup victories, a mark that has stood for 34 years.
Shiffrin is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and is closing in on her fifth overall title, which would be one short of the women’s record by Annemarie Moser-Proell. Impressive as those accomplishments are, however, the World Cup victories record is in a different class. It requires consistent excellence over many years, and injuries alone put it out of reach for most skiers.
“My body is screaming at me to STOP, and it’s time for me to listen,” Lindsey Vonn, who got closer to Stenmark than anyone besides Shiffrin, said when she announced her retirement in 2019.
But not only is Shiffrin expected to break Stenmark’s longtime record, the Swedish legend thinks the 27-year-old will have 100 wins or more by the time she retires.
“I think that Shiffrin will win more than 100,” Stenmark told Olympics.com earlier this season, “and it doesn’t make me sad at all.”
Will World Cup record fall this weekend?
There are three races in Norway: super-Gs on Friday and Sunday and a downhill Saturday. Those are speed races, and Shiffrin’s specialty is the tech events – slalom, giant slalom – but she’s won in every discipline, including a super-G this season in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Shiffrin also had the fastest time in downhill training Wednesday, so anything is possible.
But, realistically, Shiffrin’s chances are better next weekend in Are, Sweden. There is a giant slalom March 10 and a slalom race the next day. Of Shiffrin’s 85 World Cup victories, 52 are in slalom and 19 are in giant slalom.
Plus, it would make for some poetic symmetry. Sweden is, of course, Stenmark’s home country. His final World Cup victory, in February 1989, came in Aspen, Colorado, the same state where Shiffrin grew up and still lives in the offseason.
And Are, where the races are being held? That’s where Shiffrin got her first World Cup win, a slalom in December 2012.
How did Mikaela Shiffrin get here?
Shiffrin was a prodigy, making her World Cup debut at 15 in March 2011. She was the second-youngest American, by roughly four months, to win an Alpine World Cup event when she did it at 17 years and about nine months in December 2012.
Still, the pace at which Shiffrin has piled up the wins is as remarkable as the wins themselves.
Shiffrin turns 28 on March 13, while Stenmark was a month shy of his 34th birthday when he got his final World Cup win. She’s won 11 World Cup races so far this season, the fourth time she’s reached double figures. That includes 2019, when she won a record 17 World Cup events.
And while all of Stenmark’s victories were in either slalom or giant slalom races, Shiffrin has won across all six disciplines contested during her career.
Once Mikaela Shiffrin gets the record, what’s left to win?
Not much! She has Olympic gold medals in slalom (2014) and giant slalom (2018) and is a seven-time world champion. She will have at least 14 season titles after this season, putting her within reach of Vonn’s all-time record of 20.
The good thing is Shiffrin isn’t driven by the records. Really. She finds joy in skiing well and trying to get as close to perfection as possible, something that will continue no matter how many titles she has.
“(Winning) 83 means a lot less to me than how I skied on the mountain today,” Shiffrin said last month after breaking Vonn’s record for World Cup wins by a female skier.
She’s also relished the increased level of competition. As other athletes elevate their skiing to try to keep up with her, Shiffrin has to take risks and push her limits to stay ahead. It’s fun, and tests her in a way she hasn’t always been.
“I have to be on my highest level, fully perfect in order to do it,” Shiffrin said last month after finishing a mere 0.06 seconds behind Germany’s Lena Duerr in her first attempt at tying Stenmark. “That makes it even more special to be in this position.”