An emotional Mikaela Shiffrin accepts overall crystal globe, joins elite group
The coronation is complete.
Standing on U.S. soil only a few hours from her hometown Sunday, Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin was handed the overall crystal globe to end World Cup Finals week in Aspen. The ceremony indoctrinated her into an exclusive club of people able to say they were at one time the best skier in the world.
Shiffrin, 22, did her best to contain the emotions, but if there was ever a time to cry, it was after accomplishing a goal you’ve had since you were 5.
“It’s hard to describe exactly what I’m thinking up there. My mind went completely blank. I just had no thoughts and that’s actually when the emotions come,” Shiffrin said. “I always get emotional hearing the national anthem and seeing people that I know in the crowd and hearing the crowd cheer. That’s what makes me emotional. It’s going to take me some time to realize how much work has gone into actually winning both of these globes.”
As Shiffrin spoke to the media Sunday, on the table in front of her were both the overall crystal globe and the slightly smaller globe she received for winning her fourth slalom title in five years. She became only the fifth American to win the overall crystal globe, joining Phil Mahre (1981, ’82, ’83), Bode Miller (2005, ’08), Lindsey Vonn (2008, ’09, ’10, ’12) and Tamara McKinney.
McKinney, who in 1983 became the first American woman to win the overall title, was there to see Shiffrin take her crown. Shiffrin believed McKinney was only in Aspen to experience the finals being on U.S. soil, but with a loud, “I’m not sure that’s right,” McKinney made it clear to the room she is in awe of Shiffrin as much as everyone else.
Even Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, a speed specialist like Shiffrin who has trained with her in the past and won his sixth straight overall globe on the men’s side Sunday, understands how special Shiffrin is.
“I was really, really speechless and impressed about her skiing at the age of 17 years. Now Mika is definitely getting to an adult woman that is able to win or beat my record,” Hirscher said. “She is dominating for so many years in slalom. This is really impressive and now she is skiing in GS as well pretty good and showed us already she can do super-G as well. What’s up next? Win downhill races? She’s able to do nearly everything.”
Shiffrin, a warrior to the end, still found reason for disappointment. She wasn’t thrilled about finishing sixth in Sunday’s giant slalom, making her 0-for-2 in races this week in Aspen after taking second in Saturday’s slalom. She also was disappointed about finishing with only 1,643 points in the overall, which is a solid 318 points ahead of second-place Ilka Stuhec of Slovenia. Her goal was to reach 1,700 points.
Shiffrin credits much of this fire to her 95-year-old grandmother, Pauline Condron, who lives in Massachusetts.
“She sort of forgets what actually happened, but she remembers the feeling, the excitement, and she watches all of my races and she writes down all of my times,” Shiffrin said. “That’s maybe where I get my passion from, and from my parents as well. But when you see her and she’s really passionate about something, it gives you passion.”
Shiffrin clinched the overall title Friday night, when Stuhec announced she wasn’t going to compete in Saturday’s slalom. Stuhec was the only person within striking distance of Shiffrin in the overall, although it was a long shot. Shiffrin had clinched the slalom earlier this month in Squaw Valley, California.
Even then, Shiffrin refused to accept her title until she had the crystal globe physically in her hands.
“I’ve been dreaming about the overall globe. I just wanted to be the best skier in the world. When you look up the definition of best skier in the world the overall globe pops up, and that’s sort of where I got the idea,” Shiffrin said. “I still don’t feel like the best skier in the world. I feel like the best slalom skier, one of the best GS skiers, and I have some work to do in speed. So maybe someday I’ll be the best skier in everything, and then I can really sit back and say, ‘OK, now I’ve done it.’ ”
Shiffrin already has 31 career World Cup victories, only two short of tying Miller for second all-time in U.S. ski racing history. Vonn’s 77 are first.
There is little reason to believe Shiffrin can’t someday push Vonn’s mark, which itself could be far from capped. Shiffrin already was willing to look ahead to next season, and her further development in the speed events. Despite a crystal globe saying she is the best female skier on the planet, Shiffrin’s internal expectations don’t allow her to accept this.
But, at least for a little while Sunday in Aspen, in front of her fans, she was able to let her guard down and take in one of the best moments in American ski racing history.
“I don’t know if we’ll ever have World Cup Finals in the U.S. in my career time again. So this was incredible,” Shiffrin said. “I had World Cup Finals two hours away from my hometown, my first overall globe winning it in Colorado — there are a lot of things that have been very exciting about being here. We are all tired. I’m tired, but it’s been amazing.”
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American giant slalom stud Ted Ligety won six times at Birds of Prey, be it five World Cups and/or gold in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, but we have to remember what a struggle it was for him to get there.