Since before this season started, Mikaela Shiffrin eschewed talk about the career World Cup wins record of 86, which has stood since 1989, believing it was too far away. Shiffrin, who began the October-to-March campaign with 74 wins, dismissed any chase storylines while racking up victories at her best clip since her record 17-win season in 2018-19.
Shiffrin remained pessimistic about catching Ingemar Stenmark this season, through breaking Lindsey Vonn‘s female wins record of 82 in January, becoming the most decorated skier in modern world championships history in February and last week clinching a fifth World Cup overall title, which crowns the world’s best all-around Alpine skier.
Nor did she waver in the minutes before her deciding run of Friday’s giant slalom in Åre, Sweden, a venue that carries so much career significance for her.
For the first time in her career, Shiffrin said she scanned live race results from the contenders who went before her. It wasn’t about learning how much of a lead she’d carry into her run after having the fastest first run by 58 hundredths of a second.
Rather, she was doing the math to learn whether or not she had clinched the season title in the GS.
The numbers spit out that Shiffrin had clinched the GS title — which she called her third “dream” for the season, after the overall and slalom titles; again note no mention of wins records. An emotion fell over Shiffrin as she readied for one of the defining runs of her career. I have nothing to lose.
“I have everything that I can gain from this if I just take a little bit of extra risk,” she later told Austrian broadcaster ORF.
Shiffrin was sixth-fastest in the second run, and it was enough to prevail by 64 hundredths over Italian Federica Brignone. Shiffrin’s reaction in the finish area was typically subdued. She put her gloves on top of her helmet, then slid them down over her goggles and finally over her mouth.
Then Brignone and third-place Sara Hector of Sweden congratulated her. “You and Ingemar are the same,” one said.
With her 86th career World Cup win, she tied Stenmark, a Swedish giant slalom and slalom star of the 1970s and ’80s, at the site of her first World Cup win at age 17 in December 2012.
“No matter what I do, it’s never going to be actually beating [Stenmark],” Shiffrin said, continuing another of her refrains over this season. “The number, OK, whatever, the numbers are the numbers.”
Shiffrin, at 27, is five years younger than Stenmark was when he reached 86. Stenmark held the wins record outright since passing Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll in January 1982.
Shiffrin’s first chance to break the record comes in a slalom, her best event, on Saturday in Åre, live on Peacock. That’s followed by next week’s season-ending World Cup Finals in Andorra, with one race in each of the four primary disciplines: downhill, super-G, GS and slalom.
“Now everyone’s going to ask about 87,” she said, laughing. “It’s a pretty spectacular position to be in. I mean, we talked at the beginning of the season, like I don’t take it for granted to be in this place where people ask me about when am I going to win 86 or when I’m going to win 87. That’s, like, a pretty cool place to be, even though it can be difficult to focus sometimes. But today I felt like the focus was there when I needed it to be, so then it was just really fun to ski. And that’s how I hoped it would be.”
Shiffrin has a tour-leading 12 World Cup victories this season and last week clinched her fifth World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in ski racing, with seven races left on the 38-race schedule.
Also Friday, Shiffrin tied the female record with her 20th World Cup win in giant slalom, matching Vreni Schneider, a Swiss star of the 1980s and ’90s, and clinched her first season title in GS since 2019. Shiffrin’s 52 World Cup slalom wins are the most for any Alpine skier in any discipline.
Shiffrin has said she has produced, at times, the best skiing of her career this season. She did so without making 86 the priority.
“86 has a mind of its own,” she told Swiss broadcaster SRF on Friday. “I just need to take care of my skiing.”
She can also recognize the gravity of the accomplishment.
“For everybody else, it was done,” or inevitable, she said. “For me, it was like, it never should have happened in the first place.
“It’s like a dream. If you told me this when I was 7 years old, I’d be freaking out, running around the house all night long.”
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86 WINS FOR MIKAELA‼️@MikaelaShiffrin ties Ingemar Stenmark for the most World Cup victories by an alpine skier in HISTORY. 🥇
— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) March 10, 2023