Shiffrin gaining on Vonn and Stenmark records as World Cup ski season opens

Howard Fendrich
Associated Press
Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates on the podium with the trophy for the women's overall World Cup title on March 20, 2022, in Meribel, France.
Alessandro Trovati/AP

Mikaela Shiffrin heads into the World Cup season that begins Saturday in Austria with 74 career wins on the circuit, putting her within shouting distance of Lindsey Vonn’s 82, the most for a woman, and Ingemar Stenmark’s overall mark of 86.

As Shiffrin’s total increases — she never claimed fewer than three victories in any of her 10 previous seasons, with a high of 17 in 2018-19 — each triumph is sure to be met with attention to, and questions about, those records.

When the 27-year-old from Colorado was asked Thursday about where she would place that sort of achievement on a resume that already includes four overall World Cup titles, two Olympic gold medals and a half-dozen world championships, Shiffrin contemplated two points of view, even veering into an unprompted appraisal of what will determine when she’s ready to retire.

If, Shiffrin said on a video conference with reporters, she owns the World Cup wins record by the time she walks away from ski racing: “I would probably rank it pretty high. I mean, it would be an enormous accomplishment in my career, and maybe one of the most meaningful accomplishments, because it would have meant that I was consistently at the top and successful throughout my entire career, throughout multiple kind of generations of athletes, despite injuries, despite some very traumatic experiences.”

It would represent achieving sustained success and longevity, which she places among her biggest goals as an athlete.

And then, shifting the focus of her response, Shiffrin said she would not consider surpassing Vonn and Stenmark the be-all-and-end-all of her competitive time on the slopes.

“I do not feel like I have to achieve that record in order to feel comfortable retiring. I feel like retirement is fully based off of just how I feel when I’m skiing and if I feel like I have the energy — the physical and mental energy — to keep pushing and to really continue to push the sport, which is the basis of what I want to try to do, is to always push the sport,” said Shiffrin, who didn’t earn a medal in any of her five individual events at the Beijing Olympics in February, unable to complete the courses for three.

“I feel like I’ve been able to do that for most of my career, or all of my career, and if it gets to the point where I’m not able to continue to push, then it’s kind of pointless to keep doing it, at least at this capacity,” Shiffrin continued. “So that would be my gauge for when can I retire or be done with skiing, done with ski racing, and feel kind of comfortable with what I’ve accomplished. To be honest, it could be tomorrow, and I’m already comfortable with what I’ve accomplished.”

Stenmark, a Swede, participated in 16 World Cup seasons in the 1970s and 1980s.

Vonn, an American, raced for 19 seasons before retiring in 2019.

“When I think about goals in the sport, when I was younger, it was a little bit vague. It was like ‘Oh, I want to be the best in the world.’ And then you’re like, ‘Oh, OK, well, I want to keep being the best in the world,’ I guess. So that’s sort of it, I guess. It’s like: ‘How long can I continue to be a contender for the top spot on the podium in my career in as many races as I can?’ And it is a little bit vague, but it leaves a lot of room to be ambitious, almost to a fault,” Shiffrin said. “But that keeps me motivated. … Just keep going. Just keep swimming.”