Time Machine: Mikaela Shiffrin through the years
Mikaela Shiffrin, at age 14, won both the slalom and the giant slalom at the Trofeo Topolino in Italy. The Topolino (Italian for Mickey Mouse) was long known as the most competitive event in the world for ski racers ages 13-14, boasting an international field of 40 countries, and was made even more prestigious by the fact that it enjoyed a long-running partnership with Disney which ran from 1958 to 2016.
“Six days shy of her 15th birthday the Vail skier attending Burke Mountain Academy had crushed Saturday’s international slalom field,” Ski Racing Magazine reported. “In the GS she needed to come from behind to earn gold and that just fired her up more … She powered past Adriana Jelinkova of the Netherlands and Louise Jansson of Sweden with a second run a half second faster than the rest of the field for her second gold medal in as many days.”
Shiffrin made her World Cup debut in March 2011, became the youngest U.S. national slalom champion in April, and notched a third-place World Cup finish in December to become the youngest female to stand on a World Cup slalom podium since Tamara McKinney in 1978.
Shiffrin, just 16 at the time, finished third behind Tina Maze of Slovenia and winner Marlies Schild of Austria. Schild was impressed by the Shiffrin’s performance, the Associated Press reported.
“She’s a real talent,” Schild said. “She has all what it takes to become a great champion in the near future.”
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Shiffrin defended her slalom title at the U.S. championships in Winter Park in March, finishing with a combined time of 1 minute, 39.57 seconds, which put her more than a second ahead of second-place finisher Hailey Duke.
She then began her breakout 2012-13 season by notching another World Cup podium in November, her second, before earning her first World Cup win in December.
Shiffrin landed on nine World Cup podiums during 2013 — five occurred during the 2012-13 season, including two wins in January and a win in March, which helped her to lock in her first crystal globe for the season-long slalom title.
Shiffrin also showed her competitive edge in her ability to win big races outside of the World Cup circuit. In February, she won the slalom at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria — a result that left her fans at home in Eagle County particularly excited with the next World Championships scheduled for Beaver Creek in 2015.
Shiffrin then started off the 2013-14 season with four more podiums in 2013, including an early win in November in Levi, Finland.
All eyes were on Shffrin for the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, but while Olympic gold was well within her grasp, it nearly eluded her.
“Guilty, perhaps, of charging too hard as she swayed this way and that around the course’s gates, Shiffrin briefly lost her balance,” the Associated Press reported. “Her left ski rose too far off the snow. Her chance at a gold medal in the event she’s dominated for two years was about to slip away.”
Her thoughts, according to the AP: “There I was, I’m like, ‘Grrreat. I’m just going to go win my first medal.’ And then, in the middle of the run, I’m like, ‘Guess not,'” the American said with a laugh Friday night. “So like, ‘No. Don’t do that. Do not give up. You see this through.'”
And that’s what happened, to the relief of all her fans watching around the world.
“Shiffrin stayed upright, gathered herself and, although giving away precious time there, was able to make a big lead from the first leg stand up,” the AP reported. “She won by more than a half-second to become, at 18, the youngest slalom champion in Olympic history.”
Shiffrin then ended the season with another slalom crystal globe, her second, and started off the next season with her first World Cup giant slalom win at the first event of the season in October.
Shiffrin started off the 2015 calendar year with a Jan. 4 World Cup win, whetting the whistle for Vail-area fans excited to watch her at home in February.
And she didn’t disappoint when the time came, winning the slalom at Beaver Creek in front of thousands of screaming spectators. Just like the Olympics, it was a nail-biter for those in attendance.
“The lady does have a flair for the dramatic,” the Vail Daily reported. “Shiffrin had a 0.40-second first-run lead over Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, but a good run by the current World Cup leader preceding Shiffrin essentially erased that margin. Shiffrin was 4-hundredths of a second behind Hansdotter at the first time interval and 3-hundredths back heading into The Abyss and the face of Redtail. Yet Shiffrin somehow found time in the final stretch, pulling away from Hansdotter by 34-hundredths with the Czech Republic’s Sarka Strachova earning bronze.”
Shiffrin then clinched her third straight World Cup slalom title at the season-ending finals in March, and delighted fans in Colorado later that year to start the following season in Aspen with a pair of wins on back-to-back days in November.
Shiffrin won a slalom in February and another pair of slaloms in March. In fact, following her slalom win at the 2015 World Championships in Beaver Creek, she won the next 14 slaloms that she entered, including 12 straight World Cups and two national championships.
But as 2016 came to a close, she began branching out a bit, winning two more giant slaloms in December and shifting her focus in practice to super-G and even downhill.
She closed out 2016 with seven straight World Cup wins, five in the slalom and two in the giant slalom.
The speed training appeared to pay off, as Shiffrin earned her first downhill podium to start off the year in January, taking third in Lake Louise, Canada. She followed that up with her first win in the discipline in February, also in Lake Louise.
“Shiffrin is the reigning Olympic and world champion in slalom, but she also is proving to be a threat in speed disciplines, with Saturday’s victory in just her fourth World Cup downhill race,” the Canadian Press reported.
While she had already earned wins in slalom, giant slalom and downhill, a super-G win still eluded her.
Heading into the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, the conversation of Shiffrin becoming a quadruple threat — exhibiting a chance to hit the podium in slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill —had intensified.
The Olympics started off well for Shiffrin, who opened with a win in giant slalom. But the following day, she just missed the podium in fourth in her best discipline, the slalom, and didn’t end up entering the speed disciplines.
She went on to finish second in the alpine combined, an event in which a skier’s times are combined in slalom and downhill, proving she did have some prowess on the speed track in PyeongChang.
She left PyeongChang happy with two Olympic medals to add to her collection.
As 2018 came to a close, Shiffrin finally found the podium in the discipline which she had yet to dominate, the super-G. Her first podium turned out to be the best spot on the podium, as well, winning a super-G in Lake Louise in December. Less than a week later, she won yet another super-G to make up for lost time, this one in St. Moritz, proving she could find speed on a track other than the Canadian course.
Shiffrin started the year on a tear, showing her mastery across disciplines with a slalom win in early January, a giant slalom win later that month, a super-G win a few days later in January, and a parallel slalom win in February at a city event in Sweden.
By March of 2019, she would be recognized as the World Cup’s most dominant overall skier, making history as the first person to win slalom, giant slalom, super-G and overall crystal globes in the same campaign.
She also set a new record for most wins in a World Cup season with 17.
She ended 2019 showing the same talent across the disciplines, hitting the podium in World Cup slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill events in December of 2019.
Just as she had in December of 2019, Shiffrin again in January of 2020 hit the podium in World Cup slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill events.
In Bansko, Bulgaria, in January, Shiffrin again earned another first in her career, winning speed events in the same weekend after she won a super-G just two days after she won a downhill on the same hill.
But it proved to be the last win of the season for Shiffrin as the year was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the tragic loss of her father.
She ended 2020 win a win in the giant slalom in December.
Shiffrin started 2021 going back to the basics, winning a slalom event in January for her first slalom win in more than a year. The pain of losing her father, however, overshadowed many of her achievements.
“Some days I wake up, and the first thing I want to do is scream so loud that everybody in the world could hear,” Shiffrin told NBC sports. “I’m trying to put that energy into the skiing because I don’t know where else to put it … Tonight, it was like I was able to release some of this feeling that just feels like this dark, terrible thing inside of my soul … Every time I’m racing and figuring things out again, I’m letting some of that go.”
She ended 2021 with a slalom win in November and a giant slalom win in December.
Shiffrin started 2022 with two January podiums in slalom, including a win that marked her history-making 47th career slalom win. The win put her past Ingemar Stenmark for most wins in a single discipline.
“It’s going to take a little while to sink in,” Shiffrin told the Associated Press. “It’s been many years of work to get to that number. Tonight I just want to enjoy how I skied the second run.”
The pressure of the Olympics loomed large, as the slalom win marked her final slalom race before the Olympic Winter Games in Beijing.
But it wasn’t meant to be, as Shiffrin left the Olympics empty-handed, to the surprise of many.
As 2022 came to a close, however, Shiffrin reasserted her ski racing dominance, winning two World Cup events in November, and four World Cup events in December across a variety of disciplines, including slalom, giant slalom and super-G.
Her Dec. 29 win marked the 80th of her career and her 50th in the slalom discipline.
In March, Shiffrin surpassed Ingemar Stenmark to notch the most World Cup ski racing wins of all time.
“While all 86 of Stenmark’s wins in the 1970s and 80s came in the technical disciplines of slalom (40) and giant slalom (46), Shiffrin’s wins have been spread out amid both her specialties of slalom and giant slalom and also in the higher-speed and more dangerous events of super-G and downhill,” the Associated Press reported.
A week after breaking Stenmark’s record of 86 wins, Shiffrin extended the all-time best mark for most career wins to 88 by winning the last race of the season, a giant slalom at the World Cup Finals.
Stenmark responded by saying Shiffrin was indeed a better ski racer than he himself.
“You cannot compare,” Stenmark said in an interview with The Associated Press. “She has everything. She has good physical strength, she has a good technique, strong head. I think it’s the combination of everything makes her so good. And I’m also impressed that she can ski good both in slalom and in super-G and downhill also … I could never have been so good in all disciplines.”