This only just happened, so it is not surprising that no one has diaried it. I know this is a political site, but we members have broad interests, and this is one of mine.
The Alpine skiing season this year has been dominated by news of American skier Mikaela Shiffrin’s chase of the Women’s all-time World Cup win total record, held by fellow American, Lindsey Vonn, since her retirement in February of 2019, due to a series of catastrophic injuries that undermined her ability to race.
Vonn focused primarily on the speed events in Alpine skiing, mostly the Downhill and the Super-G, where speeds are highest, and the risks the greatest. NBCSports wrote an article about some of these injuries, focusing on the major ones.
It is hard to calculate how many races Vonn missed due to injury and early retirement (at age 34, but while she was still capable of winning races). It is easy to imagine she would have won many more than the 82 World Cup races she did win. So, Vonn’s place in Alpine skiing is secure, no matter who wins more races. Only the great Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark ever had more, holding the absolute Alpine record, with 86 World Cup wins.
I follow Lindsey Vonn on Instagram, and even now, almost four full years after her retirement, she frequently posts pictures from recent gym workouts. This may be difficult to imagine, but it looks to me like her overall fitness may be higher than when she was racing. This can’t be easy for her. Her many crashes and injuries mean that she will not likely be pain-free for the remainder of her life. Yet still her focus is that of an elite athlete.
Just last week, she achieved something no other woman has done, when she skied the infamous Streif, a notoriously dangerous World Cup downhill course in Austria previously skied only by men.
More remarkably, she skied it at night, followed down the run by a drone for beautiful nighttime footage. Of course, it was not a race, and she did not ski it at the speeds the men hit on that run. But it was a remarkable thing, even so, and it required a great deal of preparation and training on her part to accomplish it safely. It showed just how amazing a skier she remains, even though she no longer competes. Here is one of the articles about her adventure on the Streif.
Though the diary has been about Vonn so far, it is actually a diary about Mikaela Shiffrin.
Shiffrin is only 27 now, with at least three more years of skiing ahead of her, at least until the Winter Olympics in 2026, in Milano-Cortina. She put her skiing on hold in early 2020, when her father died unexpectedly in an unfortunate accident. That ended her season that year, and even she questioned whether she would ever return to the sport she loves. Many of us are very thankful that she did.
Just over an hour ago, Shiffrin won a Giant Slalom race in Kronplatz, Italy, to notch her 83rd World Cup victory, breaking Vonn’s Women’s record. Only Stenmark remains ahead of her, with his 86 World Cup victories.
Mikaela would be the first to tell you of her great respect for Lindsey Vonn. Even with more victories, I don't think she would never claim to be ‘better’ than Lindsey. What Lindsey Vonn achieved is amazing. I read her autobiographical book, Rise, released in 2022, and it is a story of courage and commitment in a career filled with challenge and adversity. That she is still that person is clear from her Streif run last week.
Lindsey Vonn also has great respect for Shiffrin. It surprised me, because Lindsey is very competitive. Yet, earlier this season, she predicted that Mikaela would become the greatest skier to ever live. It’s clear that she believes Mikaela will soon catch and pass Ingemar Stenmark, and Stenmark himself predicted that Mikaela would end her career with more than 100 victories.
I know this story won’t mean much to most people here - even the main sports sites have given it short shrift (Sports Illustrated hasn’t reported it yet, for example). But make no mistake: it is one of the greatest achievements in her sport, and one of the greatest any woman has ever achieved. With Lindsey’s Streif run last week, it has been a very good week for women in sport, indeed.
Mikaela goes for win #84 in another Kronplatz Giant Slalom tomorrow morning. She will start fourth in the first run at 4:30 am Eastern.
Update: FIS is reporting the accolades streaming in for Shiffrin after this morning’s victory.
“Mind-blowing,” said Shiffrin’s boyfriend, Aleksander Aamodt-Kilde, the Norwegian superstar leading the World Cup rankings in Men’s downhill, himself a 20 time World Cup race winner.
"These numbers are just insane to me," said Kilde. "I can't really describe it but the way when I talk to her, she's just enjoying skiing," he added. "She loves it, she loves to get better.
"I'm really happy for Mikaela," Vonn wrote in a diary for the Associated Press.
"Records are meant to be broken and it's a sign of progress. And if anyone is to break my record, I'm really happy that it's an American."
There are other reactions at the above link, from her peers, so it’s a fun read.
In an interesting bit of related news, Kilde won the Jan. 21 Downhill race on the Kitzbühel race course in Austria that contains the Streif that Lindsey Vonn just skied. It was his second victory on that amazing track, having won last year, as well.
wilderness voice graciously posted a YouTube clip of Shiffrin’s winning second run, but the original poster blocked its viewership in other countries. I posted an FIS video showing her run in a comment below that, if you would like to see it.
Finally, special thanks to all who have come to read about Mikaela and Lindsey and the special athletes in this less-appreciated sport. Very heartening!
Mikaela just posted her thoughts about today on Facebook. I think they’re worth sharing. I believe she intended them for everyone.
Mikaela update 2, just posted.
Imagine that! SHE is thankful! We are thankful, Mikaela. For you, and your great achievements.