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(3.85 MB) Download A Day in the Life of Mikaela Shiffrin American World Cup Alpine Ski Racer on Mammoth Mountain

  May 06, 2017  ~    3.85 MB
A Day in the Life of Mikaela Shiffrin American World Cup Alpine Ski Racer on Mammoth Mountain




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ASPEN, Colo. — “Is my career ahead of schedule?” Mikaela Shiffrin, the precocious Olympic and world ski racing champion, asked here on Monday, her 22nd birthday. “No, I don’t think I’ll ever believe I’m ahead of schedule.”

That is truly bad news for the other women’s ski racers of the world.

Shiffrin, before even racing in the finals this weekend, won the women’s World Cup overall title, the sport’s top prize, which is a monumental achievement at any age. Shiffrin had built a nearly insurmountable lead in the season-long World Cup standings, and on Friday, her only remaining competitor, Ilka Stuhec, withdrew from Saturday’s slalom, handing the overall title to Shiffrin, who becomes only the third American woman to win it, and the first since 1983 not named Lindsey Vonn.

If this isn’t overachieving, what would it look like if she were?

Some of her colleagues and competitors, thunderstruck by the swiftness of her rise to the top, have been wondering the same thing.

“If she stays healthy, she’s the one that has the best chance of having the most World Cup wins of all time,” said Ted Ligety, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and five-time world champion.
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Said Stuhec of Slovenia, who has had a breakout season and still trails Shiffrin by 278 points: “You do ask: What else can she do next?”

The World Cup record of 86 victories, set by Ingemar Stenmark in 1989, was once considered unassailable. Shiffrin, who finished second in the women’s slalom here on Saturday, already has 31 individual World Cup victories, or three more than Stenmark, and 27 more than Vonn, at the same age. Recently, much attention has been focused on Vonn, who is nine victories short of Stenmark’s achievement.

Vonn, 32, may yet catch him, but as Ligety said: “I think Stenmark really has got to be worried about Mikaela. I could see her chugging along for a long time to come.”

Shiffrin’s haul of Olympic medals could eventually be historic as well.

Barring injury, Shiffrin will be the prohibitive favorite to defend her slalom title at the 2018 Winter Olympics, and she will be a prime gold medal contender in two other events: the giant slalom and the Alpine combined. Contending for a medal in the super-G is possible, too, and racing in the Olympic downhill is not out of the question, either. The three gold medals won by Janica Kostelic of Croatia at the 2002 Salt Lake Games is the record for Alpine gold medals won by a woman at one Olympics.

Kostelic and Anja Pärson of Sweden are tied for most career Olympic Alpine medals of any kind by a woman, with six — another mark potentially within Shiffrin’s reach.

“In time, and maybe sooner than anyone thought, Shiffrin can win in every event,” said Aksel Lund Svindal, a three-time Olympic medalist and two-time overall World Cup champion.

Shiffrin does not shy from such talk, even if she will not initiate it. The world’s best women’s slalom skier since she was 17, Shiffrin can be convincingly emphatic about her broader ambitions.

“When I was a little girl, I didn’t dream of being the best slalom skier in the world,” she said here Monday in a chalet at the Aspen base. “I dreamed of being the best skier in the world. Period.”

This was supposed to be the winter when Shiffrin took baby steps into the exalted territory formerly occupied by Vonn, the four-time overall winner. Shiffrin was expected to gently test her versatility in the more speedy and dangerous events. Instead, she has crashed the party, winning three giant slaloms and one Alpine combined, in just the second time she had competed in that event.

Within the skiing community, it has been easy to see a more than symbolic passing of the torch. That is especially true in the United States since the dominant American ski stars of this century — Vonn, Ligety, Julia Mancuso and Bode Miller — have all been hobbled by serious, debilitating injuries this season.

Shiffrin will not easily admit to seeing that handwriting on the wall. The closest she will come to acknowledging that she has ascended to a newfound place in her sport, and gained American fame, is a story she related about shopping near her hometown, Eagle-Vail, Colo., last month.