Each day, there’s a new ski racing record Mikaela Shiffrin hears about that she’s either broken or close to breaking or on pace to eventually break.
“I mean how many records are there in the sport?” joked the two-time World Cup overall champion.
Her name is certainly getting attached to plenty of them.
Shiffrin wrapped up 2018 with 15 World Cup wins — most ever for an Alpine skier in a calendar year — an Olympic giant slalom gold medal from the Pyeongchang Games and by becoming the most successful female slalom racer in the circuit’s history.
Her resolution for ’19 remains straightforward: Keep doing what she’s doing as she strives for that perfect performance.
“The perfect race is the finish line I will never cross,” said the 23-year-old from Avon, Colorado, who will compete in a city event on New Year’s Day in Oslo, Norway. “If I ever have the perfect race, what’s left out there to accomplish except for trying to achieve it again? But part of the brilliance of the sport is that it’s always progressing. I might be out of my mind one day but then I go back and look at the video and think, ‘You know I could’ve skied that a little bit better’ or ‘I still messed up this turn or that turn.’
“I do think the finish line is always moving.”
Yet, she always seems to get there first.
Last Saturday in Semmering, Austria, Shiffrin set all sorts of marks. It was her 15th World Cup win in a calendar year, moving one victory past men’s overall champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria, who won 14 times in ’18.
In addition, Shiffrin picked up her 36th slalom victory to eclipse the mark of her childhood idol Marlies Raich , who competed as Marlies Schild before retiring in 2014. Only Swedish standout Ingemar Stenmark has won more World Cup slalom races with 40.
The lead-up to passing Raich’s record was an emotional experience for her. Shiffrin grew up studying and analyzing her races.
“There’s actually a pretty large part of me that never wanted to pass Marlies,” said Shiffrin, who currently leads the overall race by 466 points over Petra Vlhova of Slovakia. “I owe her a lot as far as my slalom skiing goes.”
After crossing the finish line and breaking the mark over the weekend, Shiffrin remained expressionless. Make no mistake, though, there were many thoughts running through her mind.
“I wish there could be captions above my head as I’m skiing down the course and as I come to the finish so that people could read my thoughts,” Shiffrin said. “Because actually I think it would be sort of comical.”
First thought: Did she miss a gate?
Second thought: Where’s the scoreboard?
“Then I saw that I had won the race and it was just sort of a moment of silence in my head like I was trying to bring on the thoughts,” Shiffrin said. “I couldn’t come up with anything. It was just blank.”
This is how dominant she’s been in the slalom: The only World Cup race in the discipline Shiffrin didn’t win in ’18 was when she failed to finish in Switzerland last January, the final event before the Pyeongchang Games. In South Korea, she was the defending Olympic slalom champion but missed out on a medal after placing fourth.
But Shiffrin has quickly resumed her dominance, capturing six straight slalom events. She will be aiming for her fourth straight slalom crown at the world championships in February in Sweden.
This season has also included a super-G victory in Lake Louise, Alberta, for Shiffrin as she became the first athlete to win in all six individual disciplines currently contested on the World Cup circuit. The super-G remains a work in progress for her, but she sits atop the standings.
“I don’t expect to win the super-G globe this year. But it is a really cool feeling to know that I have the leader bib of the super-G even for any amount of time,” Shiffrin said. “But it doesn’t change my goal.”
Her mind remains on securing another overall crown. And should Shiffrin break a few more records along the way, she’s all for it even if she can’t fully comprehend all the history she’s making these days.
“Maybe I’ll have perspective 10 years from now, 15 years from now, when I’m retired,” Shiffrin said. “But right now, the perspective I have is I’m sitting in my hotel room in Oslo and it’s pitch-black outside and I’m going to go to the gym in a few minutes and do some core mobility. That’s my perspective.”
Associated Press Writer Eric Willemsen contributed to this report.
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