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Mikaela Shiffrin closes in on Lindsey Vonn’s World Cup record

Mikaela Shiffrin closes in on Lindsey Vonn’s World Cup record

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The trek from Mount Levi, Finland, where Mikaela Shiffrin opened the Alpine World Cup season by winning the first two races, adding trophies to a pile that knows no bounds, consisted of a race back to the hotel with 45 minutes to pack. a drive to nearby Kittila to catch a flight to Helsinki to stay in an airport hotel to sleep before the 4am alarm for a 6.30am flight to Frankfurt, Germany, to catch another plane to Boston, where I could pick up my bags. rent a car and drive the three hours to Killington, Vt., arriving around 8 p.m.

There is fatigue, of course. There is much more.

“After a race, for me, I’m so wired I can’t even sleep,” he said. “I’m totally like,”Aaaah!’ Especially after the way this season started, it was so spectacular that I couldn’t turn my brain off.”

Which assumes Shiffrin’s brain has an off switch. There is little evidence for this. Those two slalom victories in Finland were the 75th and 76th World Cup victories of a career that has few peers. Lindsey Vonn holds the women’s record with 82, and Ingemar Stenmark holds the human mark with 86. This is the club. It’s small

When you start to consider that the Slalom at Killington has been contested five times, and Shiffrin has won all five, and factor in that he has three individual seasons in which he has won more than 12 races, well, the dream thing begins it seems real.

“The way I thought about it is if I got to a certain point in my career with enough wins, I would finally start to feel confident that I’m a winner and that I deserve to be there and success has arrived. I’m there.” Shiffrin said this week in a telephone conversation from Killington. “Finally I’m there. I’m at the destination.

“And now I realize it’s never going to feel like that. And every morning when I wake up, the first thing I’m going to think about is: What do I have to do today to win it back?

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He has won all his sporting awards: Olympic gold medals (two), world championship gold medals (six), overall World Cup titles (four), races in every discipline on offer. The drive, the daily motivation – win it all over again.

“That’s fine,” he continued. “That’s not a bad feeling. In a way, I think it’s almost a healthier way of living, not thinking about things that went well in the past, just trying to keep working on your dreams, wherever they take you.” .

Killington, a giant slalom Saturday, slalom Sunday, is the only U.S. stop on the women’s World Cup schedule. Shiffrin loves these events, just two hours from where he got his formative training at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy. “It’s a gift, such a friendly atmosphere, a friendly crowd,” he said.

But it’s also very much a business trip. She is there to work, and when some of the women’s circuit moves on to speed races in Lake Louise, Canada, next week, she will return to Europe to concentrate on training for the technical events, giant slalom and slalom, in which he has added 63 of his 76 victories in the World Cup.

In talking with Shiffrin over the years, starting when she was 17 and breaking onto the international scene to her first Olympics in 2014 in Sochi, Russia, I’ve often wondered if her jitters before races or her relentless pursuit of perfection: she is a workout and video addict; they have overwhelmed the joy he derives from winning. Now that he’s 27 and in some ways closer to the end of his career than the beginning, I realize I’ve been thinking about it backwards.

Do some training at Levi’s in the weeks leading up to the races there. Instead of returning to Copper Mountain in Colorado, where many American racers trained for speed, American technical racers stayed in Europe and trained in Finland, with some of the best Europeans. There, American teammate Paula Moltzan was making run after run of blistering runs.

“I’d say, ‘What do I have to do to try to catch up with her?’ Shiffrin said. “And then maybe I’d go neck and neck or be a little faster, and then she’d put down a faster time.” And here his voice takes on emotion. “These are the days they are pretty funny. It’s amazing to have that in a training environment like that.”

We see the results and count the wins and find out what is possible and what would be legendary. For Shiffrin, there’s more joy in what we don’t see.

“It’s more like I’m skiing for training, and how much fun it is to train when I’m skiing well, compared to racing,” Shiffrin said. “The racing part is what makes me question even if I want to do this, and the training is what keeps me coming back.”

After the sudden and tragic death of his father, Jeff, in early 2020 and after the pandemic and all the havoc it caused, the return was not always a guarantee. A Beijing Olympics where she not only didn’t medal, but didn’t finish the slalom, giant slalom or alpine combined would have pushed her even further to the limit. Retirement, even at the age of 27, with historical marks on the front, is always somewhere at the front of the stove, simmering.

“I’m glad I stuck with it to this point, but it’s definitely still something that’s always on the back of my mind,” Shiffrin said. “When will the moment come when I decide that the work is no longer worth it? And I don’t feel it until now especially because the work, in fact, I really like doing the work.”

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In his case, the work almost invariably pays off. The results are pushing the limits that have only been achieved by the legends of the sport. But while the brands of Vonn and Stenmark are certainly within her field of vision, that doesn’t make them Shiffrin’s main motivation.

“I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a factor at all, that I never thought about it,” Shiffrin said. “But it’s not the engine.

“Lindsey, she earned the respect of the entire ski racing world. Throughout her entire career, so much of what she did was so innovative. So whatever she does, it doesn’t change anything that happened in his career. I would be very proud to have that record. But it’s not what makes me feel any kind of gratification when I look back on my career.”

He can look back on his career and realize that he has already achieved more than he would have expected. The rest of us can look ahead and watch the milestones on the horizon. The joy for the Killington crowd would be to enjoy another Shiffrin victory. The joy for Shiffrin would be the improved training during the previous week. Both can exist in the same space. They all lead to a place, with achievements bordering on unprecedented, that makes it difficult to turn off the brain.



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