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Shiffrin Ties Long-Held Record

  • Image20120 AP1012
    American Mikaela Shiffrin speeds down the course during an alpine ski, women’s World Cup giant slalom race, in Are, Sweden, on March 10, 2023. (AP/Alessandro Trovati)


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UPDATE: On Saturday, Mikaela Shiffrin claimed yet another victory, increasing her wins to 87 and setting a new World Cup alpine ski racing record.

In 1989, Swedish alpine ski racer Ingemar Stenmark set a record many thought would never be matched. He won his 86th World Cup race. But on Friday, 27-year-old American Mikaela Shiffrin tied that record in Are, Sweden. She won a giant slalom, bringing her total wins up to the exact number as Stenmark. A second slalom faced her on Saturday, giving her opportunity to break Stenmark’s record with an 87th victory. (See the Teen website for updates!)

Moments after winning the record-tying World Cup race, a Swedish broadcaster asked Shiffrin to directly address Stenmark, who had promised to watch her race on television from his home.

Shiffrin spoke of her respect for the 66-year-old champ and the historic mark he set.

“No matter what I do, it doesn’t ever compare to what you achieved,” she said into the camera from the lakeside resort. “Maybe I get the 87th victory, maybe not. But for me the biggest dream is to be mentioned in the same sentence as you.”

The admiration is mutual. Stenmark doesn’t express jealousy at the possibility of being ousted from the top spot. In an interview last month, he said of Shiffrin’s athleticism that she is “much better than I was.” He notes her advanced skills, saying, “She can adapt to all kind of different snow conditions.”

That expression rings of truth—not just because of athletic performance. It’s the way people are designed by their Creator to live with one another—building up rather than tearing down. The Apostle Paul taught that “love does not envy or boast. . . . It does not insist on its own way.” (1 Corinthians 13:4-5) He also wrote that we should “rejoice with those who rejoice.”  (Romans 12:15) The German language has a word for this: freudenfreude. It comes from the word for “joy,” which is freude. But it amplifies that celebration by applying it to sharing in the joy of another.

Shiffrin certainly had reason to rejoice on Friday. Her first race time in the morning sunshine was more than a second faster than her highest-ranked rival’s. “It’s one of the few runs in my life where, while I was skiing it, I was thinking, ‘This is good,’” Shiffrin says.

She skied cleanly in the second race through sections where competitor Federica Brignone made mistakes in an aggressive push for speed, losing precious fractions of seconds. In the end, Shiffrin won with a margin of 0.64 seconds.

Shiffrin crossed the finish line and put her hands to her helmet, then to her face, and shook her head slowly while taking in the enormity of her achievement. In the finish area, she hugged her mother and coach, Eileen.

“This is just a spectacular day,” she said in a course-side interview.

Shiffrin’s 86th victory came in her 245th World Cup race, and on the fifth attempt to equal Stenmark’s record since she won her 85th race in January.

Shiffrin won her first World Cup race in Are, a slalom in December 2012. She then earned two gold medals at the 2019 worlds at the Swedish resort. Shiffrin was due to race there again in March 2020—a month after the death of her father. But the races were called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I’ve had a quite a few different experiences here,” Shiffrin says. “I have felt everything you can feel here, so it’s special to be back.”

(American Mikaela Shiffrin speeds down the course during an alpine ski, women’s World Cup giant slalom race, in Are, Sweden, on March 10, 2023. AP/Alessandro Trovati)