Shiffrin’s World Cup wins record pursuit continues in Slovenia
Nearing Lindsey Vonn’s benchmark, Shiffrin says 'the trick is you have to be competitive, but you have to have patience'
Special to the Daily
Mikaela Shiffrin’s quest to equal Lindsey Vonn’s career World Cup victory tally of 82 will have to wait, at least one more day. As the old adage goes, patience is a virtue, something not lost on the Colorado ski racer, who never ceases to amaze.
In her first attempt to reach the benchmark — after a weather-related cancellation of a slalom in Zagreb, Croatia on Thursday — Shiffrin came up a little bit short, 1.33 seconds to be exact. The Edwards resident, who remains the talk of the town on the women’s World Cup tour, finished tied for sixth in a giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Saturday. She was fifth after the morning run, within striking distance, just 0.31 seconds off Canadian race winner Valerie Grenier’s leading time. It was not meant to be.
“After races like this you feel a little defeated because actually, I felt like my skiing was quite good, but there is a difference between good skiing and the fastest skiing,” Shiffrin said in the Kranjska Gora finish area after the race.
Shiffrin will have another crack on Sunday, as part of the GS doubleheader in the Slovenian resort town, just east of Italy.
“I’m going to look at the video and see kind of where exactly I lost time and what I should adjust and focus on tomorrow to do better,” said Shiffrin, who was 18th in the second run, having bled time away on the unrelenting final pitch of the Podkoren 3 piste.
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Shiffrin’s remarkable streak of five consecutive victories, across three disciplines, was also snapped on Saturday.
Vonn, who remains the lone all-time women’s leader in World Cup victories, at least for one more night, still standing at 82, retired four years ago when injuries ended her pursuit of Ingemar Stenmark’s longstanding record of 86. The legendary Swede won his final World Cup race, a GS in Aspen, on Feb. 19, 1989. Vonn’s last triumph was in a downhill in Åre, Sweden, March 14, 2018.
Talk about Mikaela’s record chase continues. While generally not her favorite topic, Shiffrin jokes that she is quickly warming up and becoming amenable to the conversation.
“I think you guys know that I’ve been tired of it since years,” Shiffrin told a large group of gathered media, with a big laugh. “Actually, I don’t mind talking about it and I’m not tired of it.”
“Now, everybody is going to say you have the chance to win 82 races and equalize the record every single race until I actually do it, if I do it,” said the 27-year-old racer.
“The trick is you have to be competitive, but you have to have patience,” she added, once again referring to the record assault. “I’m not maybe the most patient person, but in the key moments I have it.”
Italian veteran Federica Brignone knows a thing or two about breaking records. The all-time World Cup wins leader among Italian women, currently with 20, surpassed Deborah Compagnoni’s previous record mark of 16, in December 2021.
“For sure, the Italian media was always talking about it and my answer was always the same, that I’m just racing for me,” said Brignone, who won her overall title in 2020. “Of course, you have it on your mind, but it pushes you. I just wanted to win more races like Mikaela now. It’s not important when she does it, we know that she is the best racer.”
Coach Mike Day on Shiffrin and team’s record chase
Shiffrin’s seven victories this winter have vaulted her to the top of the overall World Cup standings. Her lead dwindled slightly after Saturday’s result, but she still owns a staggering 369-point lead over nearest challenger Petra Vlhova, who finished third. Shiffrin is seeking her fifth overall title, which would also surpass Vonn.
Mike Day, Shiffrin’s coach of seven years, believes that one famed Colorado ski racer’s pursuit of another champion who has also called Colorado home is a thrilling time for the sport, both in the state, and beyond.
“The wins totals between the two of them is astounding, so I think there should be a lot of pride for the state of Colorado, the ski resorts in Colorado and the ski industry in Colorado at the forefront,” Day said, during an interview in Kranjska Gora. “But I think all of America can be pretty happy with what’s going on with Mikaela now and Lindsey in the past, so for sure it’s a pretty exciting time for all of us.”
However, Day also informs that internally as a team, there is no discussion of chasing records.
“Mikaela does a great job staying focused in the moment, that’s obvious, but we as a team don’t talk about the numbers,” he said. “We do our very best to make sure she is always prepared, and ultimately I think the numbers take care of themselves with good performances.”
A second chance in Slovenia on Sunday, hopefully
Mild temperatures and a significant probability of mid-afternoon rain, with the Kranjska Gora finish area situated at 2,805 feet, along with wind gusts up to 17 kilometers per hour, could pose problems for Sunday’s second GS race.
Weather permitting, Shiffrin, being the consummate professional on and off the mountain, is undoubtedly prepared for the challenge at hand. She thanked the local community and those around the Northwestern Slovenian ski resort, with its six decades of ski racing tradition, for the encouragement.
“I have been getting a lot of great support over the past weeks and especially here as well,” Shiffrin said. “There are a lot of Slovakian fans here too, and they are also very kind to me, which you don’t always see when you are talking about two big rivals.”
And fielding yet one more question about the impending record, coming from an overzealous journalist, Shiffrin remains poised, just as she has displayed charging gates down the race hill, ever since her World Cup debut in the Czech Republic, nearly 13 years ago.
“I wouldn’t say it’s something that you just get done, it’s hard to win races,” Shiffrin said. “What I want to do along the way is feel really proud of my skiing and what I accomplish with my turns.”
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