ARE, Sweden — Moments after winning her record-tying 86th World Cup run, a Swedish broadcaster asked Mikaela Shiffrin to speak directly to Ingemar Stenmark, the outstanding skier she had promised to watch at home on television. .
From one great to another, the 27-year-old American spoke to the 66-year-old Swede about her respect for him and the historic mark he set in 1989 that was long thought to be out of his reach.
“No matter what you do, it never compares to what you’ve achieved,” Shiffrin told TV6 camera from the lakeside resort. “Maybe I’ll get win number 87, maybe not. But for me, the biggest dream is to be mentioned in the same sentence as you.”
Shiffrin matched the Swede’s mark by winning a giant slalom on Friday. He can break the record on Saturday in a slalom race. Those are his specialties, just as they were for Stenmark in the ’70s and ’80s.
The bow between the two goes both ways. Stenmark told The Associated Press in an interview last month that Shiffrin is “a lot better than me.”
It was certainly a good Friday, especially in an outstanding first race that was the platform for another dominant win in his storied career. His time in the morning sun was more than a second faster than her top-placed rivals and ultimately left her with a 0.58sec lead to defend in race two.
Clearly pleased with her skiing in the first run, Shiffrin smiled and said “yes” to herself after seeing her time around the finish zone.
“It’s one of the few races in my life where, while skiing, I thought: ‘This is good,’” Shiffrin told TV6.
Shiffrin emerged more cautiously under the floodlights into the rapidly darkening afternoon, banging her ski poles four times at the start dugout before starting 1.04sec clear of then-leader Federica Brignone.
The lead fell to 0.57sec halfway down the slope before Shiffrin skied clean through sections where Brignone’s aggressive pushing had led to mistakes. The winning margin was 0.64 seconds.
Shiffrin crossed the finish line and put his hands to his helmet, then to his face, shaking his head slowly as he took in the enormity of his achievement.
“This is just a spectacular day. Oh my gosh,” she said in a fieldside interview.
It was Shiffrin’s fourth straight World Cup giant slalom victory since January. In that time, she also took gold at last month’s world championship event in Meribel, France.
“When I was little, I never would have believed that one day I would be in this position,” Shiffrin later told Swiss broadcaster SRF. “All day I was trying not to focus on it.”
Shiffrin’s 86th win came in his 245th World Cup race, and his fifth attempt to match Stenmark’s record since winning his 85th race in January.
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“It has been on my mind. It’s been quite difficult to focus the last few weeks,” said Shiffrin, who hugged her mother and trainer, Eileen, at the finish area.
Brignone gave a theatrical bow to Shiffrin at the goal area ceremony. The podium included Olympic champion Sara Hector of Sweden, who finished 0.92 seconds back in third place.
Shiffrin also clinched the season-long World Cup giant slalom title to clinch her fifteenth career glass globe trophy. He has already won his fifth overall World Cup title and the slalom title this season.
Making even more World Cup history on Friday, Shiffrin’s 20th career victory in the giant slalom, six of them this season, equaled the women’s all-time record held by Vreni Schneider.
Schneider had her victories between 1984 and 1992. The Swiss runner, like Shiffrin, also has Olympic and world championship gold medals in both giant slalom and slalom.
Shiffrin won her first World Cup race in Are, a slalom in December 2012, and went on to win two gold medals at the 2019 worlds at the Swedish resort. It was also where he was due to race again in March 2020 after the death of his father the previous month, but the races were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I’ve had quite a few different experiences here,” Shiffrin said after his first race on Friday. “I’ve felt everything you can feel here, so it’s special to be back.”