Mikaela Shiffrin’s incredible career to date is so much more than mere numbers but they certainly help to underline her ascension over 12 quite extraordinary years to the top of Alpine racing.
Aged just 27 and having already now been crowned the most decorated World Cup skier of all time, her numbers also paint a thrilling picture of just what might come next.
Peeling back the layers of success
The headline figure of 86 wins in 244 starts on the Audi FIS Ski World Cup circuit is now well-known but, the deeper you delve into the figures, the more awe-inspiring Shiffrin’s achievements become.
Since first lining up in a World Cup bib on 11 March 2013 in the Czech Republic’s Spindleruv Mlyn as a wide-eyed teenager two days before her 16th birthday, Shiffrin has won an almost ludicrous 35.3% of races she has contested.
While the top of the podium is often a natural resting place, the top three has become a home-from-home. Comfortably more than half the time (55.3%) she races against the rest of the world’s best, she finishes on the podium.
Her tally of 52 World Cup slalom wins makes her easily the most decorated technical skier of all-time. She passed the previous record of 40 victories, also held by Ingemar Stenmark, way back in 2019.
The great and amiable Swede has been happy to see almost all of his records smashed one-by-one. Shiffrin’s 47th slalom win, recorded under Schladming’s famous lights in January 2022, lifted her beyond Stenmark’s mark for World Cup crowns in a single discipline (he won 46 career giant slaloms).
First in history
It is no surprise that Shiffrin has more ‘firsts’ attached to her name than anyone in the history of Alpine skiing. But perhaps the most impressive came in early December 2018 when the then 23-year-old became the first skier ever to win in all six FIS World Cup disciplines.
Her mastery of both the technical and speed disciplines is unrivalled.
The Colorado native emerged as a slalom specialist but soon threw off that label. In 2019 – a season she dominated in a manner like no one else has come close to, before or since – Shiffrin became the first skier to win the World Cup season titles in the slalom, giant slalom and super-G, as well as grabbing the overall Crystal Globe.
Her running total of 52 slalom, 20 GS, five super-G, three downhill, one Alpine combined and five parallel World Cup wins has to be read several times to be believed.
2019: miracle season
Even among all these exploits, there is one season that stands out – currently – above all the others.
Shiffrin raced 29 times in the 2019 season across the World Cup tour and the World Championships and claimed a mind-boggling 19 wins among 24 podium places. That equates to a 66% chance she would win every time she took the start gate and an 83% chance she would end up on the podium.
On the World Cup circuit alone, she won 17 times, shattering Vreni Schneider’s record for wins in a single season (14, set in 1989). In Are, Sweden, Shiffrin became the first skier to win both the super-G and slalom World Championship titles at the same event.
This season has not been too bad either, with 12 wins from her 24 races and several opportunities, including the Are slalom and World Cup Finals, to up those numbers still waiting.
World Championship & Olympic Games exploits
The biggest stages of all have also given Shiffrin ample opportunity to stake her claim as the greatest of all time.
First, the World Championships. In 17 starts Shiffrin has finished on the podium 14 times, claiming seven gold medals. She is the only skier to become a world champion in six consecutive events, as well as the only competitor ever to win four successive gold medals in the same discipline (slalom). She is also the youngest US woman to become an Alpine world champion – aged just 17 in 2013 – and comfortably her nation’s most decorated.
While the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games confirmed even Shiffrin is human, with the American falling to the snow a shock three times during a campaign that failed to deliver a medal, the world’s biggest winter sports extravaganza has still delivered eye-catching records.
In 2014 in Sochi, Shiffrin, at 18, became the youngest skier ever to win an Olympic slalom gold. Four years later in PyeongChang, victory in the giant slalom tied her with Ted Ligety and Andrea Mead Lawrence for the most Olympic gold medals won by an American Olympian in Alpine skiing.
What does the future hold?
It is worth repeating that the American is just 27 and, for Alpine skiing fanatics – and indeed sports fans generally – the next years of Mikaela Shiffrin are surely not to be missed.
Stenmark has long been convinced she will get to and exceed a century of World Cup wins, setting a mark that is unlikely to ever be passed. Her performances this season indicate that if anything she is speeding up.
A gold and two silvers from the recent World Championships in Courchevel Meribel extended her remarkable record in the biennial event. And with the Milan Cortina Olympic Games just three years away, the stage is surely Shiffrin’s for as long as she wants it.
We cannot wait for more.