Mikaela Shiffrin returns home, honored at Vail celebration after setting skiing record
VAIL — A hero’s welcome was set up to celebrate U.S. ski team athlete and hometown GOAT Mikaela Shiffrin on Sunday to mark her record-breaking World Cup season.
As of March 11, Shiffrin became the “greatest skier of all time” after she broke the record for number of career World Cup wins, previously held by Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark. Stenmark held the record of 86 wins for 34 years, and Shiffrin won her 87th World Cup race (and 88th World Cup race) in Are, Sweden.
Hundreds of people gathered at Solaris Plaza in Vail Village as Shiffrin strolled down a walkway lined with 88 stars, marking her current World Cup victories, as fans waved and cheered as she approached the stage.
Shiffrin was greeted by Doug Lewis, a former U.S. ski team member and two-time Olympian who has been an NBC sports ski analyst and has called many of the races Shiffrin has participated in. He asked her what it feels like, from her first World Cup win to the record-breaking win.
“It always feels like a dream, and I feel like I’m going to wake up at some point. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way, so that hasn’t changed from the first win that I had until now,” Shiffrin said.
“Well, welcome to reality, you are fully awake right now,” Lewis said.
Then Lewis turned everyone’s attention to the big screen for a special message from Sen. John Hickenlooper on becoming the winningest Alpine ski racer in the world.
“You are an inspiration and we applaud your talent, your hard work and your dedication. Thank you for making Colorado proud. Enjoy this victory, Mikaela, we can’t wait to see what you do next,” Hickenlooper said.
Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera was present to congratulate Shiffrin and also read a proclamation from Gov. Jared Polis that declared Mar. 11, 2023, as “Mikaela Shiffrin Day” in the state of Colorado.
Shiffrin was also greeted by several town mayors and municipality dignitaries who each brought Shiffrin unique gifts that were indicative of each town. The town of Eagle gave Shiffrin a western belt buckle, nodding to the region’s western heritage, and the town of Vail gave Shiffrin one of its decorative manhole covers. Minturn gave her a lifetime membership to the Minturn Fitness Center and a skier statue made out of railroad ties, harkening back to Minturn’s railroad history.
Next, U.S. ski team alumni came up one by one and presented Shiffrin with a single ski from Atomic that listed one of the many records that Shiffrin currently holds. Fellow athletes Reni Gorsuch, Cindy Nelson, Brenda Buglione Kirwood, Mike Brown, Karen Lancaster Ghent, Sarah Will, Alice McKennis Duran, Thomas Walsh, Jonny Moseley and Oksana Masters did the honors.
Lewis then told Shiffrin that she is a GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) and invited Shiffrin to check out the video messages from other GOATs and notables on the big screen. Peyton Manning, Roger Federer, Russell and Ciara Wilson, Derek Jeter, Simone Biles, Chloe Kim and Stenmark all wished her well. So did actors Patrick Dempsey and Kate Winslet, and talk show hosts Samantha Guthrie, Hoda Kotb and Chelsea Handler.
“On behalf of all these GOATs you just saw, we wanted to make sure that this last presenter really knows what you’ve been through today and in fact, they’ve been with you every step of the way. Please welcome Eileen, Taylor and Kristi along with a special gift … Mikaela’s own goat!” Lewis said in front of a cheering crowd as Shiffrin’s family members, and a goat, came on stage.
“Do we have a name for it yet?” Lewis said.
“I have to name it?” replied Shiffrin.
The crowd yelled out possible names for Shiffrin to choose from, including “Jeff” (after Shiffrin’s father who passed away in February 2020), “Billy,” and “Atomic.”
Shiffrin closed out the celebration admitting that she never thought breaking Stenmark’s record was ever going to happen during her career and gave thanks to the community that has supported her from the beginning.
“The support that I get from Colorado, this valley, from home, that is something that drives me throughout the season. It has for my entire career. It has been such a privilege to grow up in this community. After all the traveling that I’ve done, this is one of the few places that you get the best of everything here,” Shiffrin said.
“You get the best skiing, you get the best summer outdoor activities, you get the best people, you get the best health care. It’s a very rare thing, it’s very unique and, especially for all the kids here, I hope you know how privileged you are, how privileged we are to grow up in such a special, strong community.”
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