Mikaela Shiffrin, Vail Colorado native, won her first race of the World Cup season for Women’s Slalom on Sunday. She won both runs with a combined time of 1 minute, 40.91 seconds. This was 1.64 seconds faster than Petra Vlhova, who took silver, and 2.67 seconds faster than Bernadette Schild, who took bronze. The lead she took was the largest time lead for any women’s world cup race since her win in March 2016 where she won by 2.03 seconds.
This amazing victory is not a fluke. In the 6 years she’s been on the highest circuit, she’s nabbed gold at almost every slalom event she’s competed in. Running through her rap-sheet of victories, I assumed that there were typos. But, like a machine, she accurately conquers the snow, sliding through the finish line, without giving other racers a chance to catch up.
She was destined to race by parents who loved to ski. Her mother, and de-facto trainer, Eileen, raced when she was younger. In an interview with the New Yorker, Eileen said that “I got good results, but didn’t take it seriously. For me, it was totally social.” She fell out of it until she met Mikaela’s father, Jeff, and they began racing in a recreational league. She was ignited, but knew her time had passed. Her energy was then focused onto her children. Mikaela and her brother both started skiing down their driveway in Vail as toddlers. Once Mikaela entered ski school, her talent was obvious as she surpassed her peers.
Mikaela’s passion for skiing was secured when the family moved from the pleasant conditions in Vail to the harsher ones on the East Coast. Mikaela attended the Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont which allowed her to combine her education and ski training in a focused way, surrounded by like-minded peers. She continued to train with the academy after her family was relocated to Denver. It paid off well as she was competing and placing in the World Cup at 16.
Through intense dedication, and an outstanding resume of victories, she’s made regular headlines. The New Yorker, in the November 2017 issue, called her the “Best Slalom Skier in the World” and claiming that she “should win at least one gold medal at the Olympics this winter in South Korea. She might even win three.” Outside Magazine featured her on the cover of the December 2017 issue, quoted as the “greatest skier of all time” to which Shiffrin commented: “BTW I totally realize that there are quite a few names on the list of ‘greatest of all time’ before mine.”
Among her victories are many groundbreaking accomplishments. She was granted Rookie of the Year at her first World Cup because she podiumed at the age of 16. The next year, she became the fourth-youngest woman to win a world cup and the first American slalom champion since 1983. Two years later, she won a gold medal for slalom at the Sochi Olympics in 2014 and became the youngest slalom champion in Olympic history. Last year, she won her first overall title for the World Cup Ladies Alpine Skiing.
Given her history, Shiffrin’s victory on Sunday was not surprising – she seems to get gold every competition she enters. It was, however, a redemption victory after losing to Petra Vlhova at the first World Cup Slalom race in Finland at the beginning of November. Shiffrin’s seemingly unstoppable nature will be tried this year by Vlhova and other technical skiing stars like Tessa Worley, Sofia Goggia, Eva-Maria Brem, Ilka Stuhec, and Anna Veith. Shiffrin seemed nervous of her competition after taking second in Finland, noting to the Denver Post that “it makes it a little more nerve-wracking.”
The skiing superstar will follow the World Cup to Lake Louise, Alberta next week to defend her reign as “the best slalom skier in the world”. Follow the tour at the FIS World Cup website.