Mikaela Shiffrin wins record 9th world championship medal, surpassing Lindsey Vonn, Ted Ligety
Shiffrin is officially the most decorated American in Alpine World Ski Championships history
Mikaela Shiffrin raced down the course at Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, for her second of two runs in the combined Monday morning and shrugged, not knowing if her first-place time would hold with some tough competition still to come.
After the field finished, Shiffrin was left sitting in the leader’s chair, securing her ninth world championships medal and sixth gold, surpassing Lindsey Vonn’s eight career medals and Ted Ligety’s five golds.
“I just wasn’t sure, you just have to wait and see because there’s always someone who can come down and do something incredible. In my opinion, you can just never be comfortable with where you are. You still have to come out the second run and ski well,” Shiffrin told NBC Sports after the first run.
Shiffrin, whose recent success comes three months after returning to racing from a 300-day break, won bronze in Thursday’s world championships opening event, the super-G.
The host Italians were set up nicely after the first leg of the combined, the speed portion, by holding the top two spots. However, Shiffrin’s slalom portion in the second leg proved too much to overcome. Two of Shiffrin’s main competitors also failed to complete their second runs. Leader Frederica Brignone, of Italy, straddled a gate and two-time defending champion Wendy Holdener, of Switzerland, also skied out.
“I felt like I was pushing, even though some turns felt slippery, but I was still pushing,” Shiffrin told The Associated Press. “I thought if somebody else has the timing a little bit better, especially the very top part, I don’t have a guaranteed medal off.”
‘Mikaela showed us how it’s done’
With two medals already, Shiffrin is setting up for a solid world championships, competing four times over the two-week competition.
Having never competed in a world championships combined, Shiffrin showed her dominance when skiing her best by winning gold. In the past, the speed event of the combined was a downhill race, followed by a tech race, but the switch to super-G in the first leg proved beneficial.
“I’m happy that we decided to put this in the plan this world champs,” Shiffrin told the NBC broadcast after the race. “It was a really nice day, beautiful weather and really great tracks on both events. For sure it was a tough slalom, so I’m pretty happy I got down with a really good run.”
Slovakia skier Petra Vlhova finished second, 0.86 behind Shiffrin; Swiss skier Michelle Gisin finished third, 0.89 behind.
“When you look at the top finishers, it’s the girls who are strong in both events,” Shiffrin said.
Fellow American Isabella Wright finished 14th; with AJ Hurt finishing with a DNF in the second run, and Breezy Johnson finishing with a DNF in the first run.
“It was a tough slalom,” bronze medalist Gisin told NBC Sports after the race. “Mikaela showed us how it’s done, and I couldn’t hold up to her quite yet, but maybe I’ll find some solutions for Saturday.”
The world championships slalom is set for Saturday, which Shiffrin is set to compete in as well as Thursday’s giant slalom.
With the combined win, Shiffrin joins Tamara McKinney as the only American woman to win the world championships event. McKinney won in 1989 — when the world championships were held in Vail.
Her gold medal brings her world championships total to nine, including golds in 2013, 2015, 2017, 2019 and now 2021, as well as silver in 2017’s GS; and bronze in 2019’s GS and this year’s super-G. (The world championships happen every two years and have been hosted by both Vail and Beaver Creek.)
With six gold world championship medals and nine total, Shiffrin is in a class of her own in American ski racing. The American men’s Ted Ligety has seven medals at world championships, including five golds; and Vonn has eight medals over the course of her career. Germany’s Chritl Cranz has a record 15 medals at the world championships in her career; France’s Marielle Goitschel and Sweden’s Anja Paerson have 11 each, within Shiffrin’s reach this world championships if the schedule plays out — but who’s counting?
“Ya, that’s pretty cool,” Shiffrin answered post-race about being the most decorated American at the world championships. “If you ask me, my first world champs in Schladming [Austria], I’d say no way. So it’s been a pretty cool journey to this point and it certainly was a pleasure today.”
Shiffrin in the past has said she hopes to do things no one else has done in the sport.
“I’ve done some things, but I’ve always been just trying to push my own limit first and then trying to push the limit in the sport,” Shiffrin said. “I feel like on my really good days I’m doing that. It’s a pretty amazing feeling.”
Shiffrin continues to lead the women’s U.S. Ski Team at the world championships in Italy. Meanwhile, Germany has won three medals so far at the world championships, the most since 2015; and the Swiss women have won four medals, including two golds in super-G and downhill. Host Italy has no medals yet.
With results already and more races to come at the world championships, Shiffrin is looking to carry momentum into the rest of the week.
“You start to feel less pressure and more freedom a little bit,” Shiffrin said. “Just ski and see what happens. Getting that mentality is just a nice build into the giant slalom and then the slalom race.”
Between now and her next race Thursday, Shiffrin will take time to both recover and train.
“I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
How to watch Shiffrin race
Racing in Italy has the world championships on early in the morning in Colorado. Races are aired on either NBCSN or the Olympic Channel.
On Thursday, Shiffrin is set to compete in the giant slalom: Run 1 starts at 2 a.m. on the Olympic Channel. Run 2 is on NBCSN at 5:30 a.m. Reruns are also available.
On Saturday, Shiffrin will close out the world championships with the slalom. Run 1 is at 2 a.m. on the Olympic Channel with Run 2 at 5:30 a.m. on the Olympic Channel. Saturday’s slalom will re-air later in the day as well as on Sunday.
The Associated Press, NBC Sports broadcast and Vail Daily Sports Editor Chris Freud contributed reporting to this story.