Burke Mountain Ski Academy graduate Mikaela Shiffrin’s continuing quest for Alpine World Cup history
Well, history is on hold for Burke Mountain Ski Academy graduate Mikaela Shiffrin. She was unable to surpass Lindsey Vonn for the most World Cup victories in women's skiing history when she finished in second place to Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova, in slalom races held in Austria on Jan. 10.
Vermont Public’s Mitch Wertlieb spoke with Peggy Shinn, who covers skiing and other winter sports for TeamUSA.org and is currently attending the 2023 FISU World University Games in Lake Placid, New York.
Mitch Wertlieb: Well, Mikaela fell short of capturing that 83rd World Cup win in women's skiing in Austria on Tuesday. What happened?
Peggy Shinn: Well, to be honest, that course is not really one of her favorites. She told me this past fall that it's got some man-made rollers in there that just don't suit her skiing style and, if you were watching the race, you could see that Petra Vlhova really sort of threw herself down the courses. Mikaela, she handled those rollers well, but was not quite as aggressive as Petra. And so I wasn't surprised that she didn't win.
It was awesome that she got on the podium, and I think could be 83rd win for her is — I don't want to say definitely — but I think it will surely come sometime this winter.
Interesting that you mentioned the conditions and that not being you know, her favorite race necessarily, because the big story that came out of that was that she apparently had a stomach bug for this race. But she didn't use that as an excuse. She said that her closest rival, Vlhova, just ran a great race.
No. And in fact, she didn't speak about it at all. One of the reporters brought it up and she insisted that this not be about her being ill, but about Petra skiing really well. And Mikaela is somebody who's not so much about herself winning and setting these records. She doesn't even like to use the word breaking records. She thinks that breaking has a negative connotation, and it kind of discounts other people's accomplishments. And she likes to use the word "resetting" records and "setting" records.
Shiffrin has also been remarkably candid about expressing feelings of anxiety as she approaches this record, "resetting" it as you say that she says. Has she always been so open about her struggles off the slopes?
She has been, and I think that's what makes her so identifiable. You know, I think we all have these anxieties, but we never think of ourselves as the best in the world. And here's somebody who's truly best in the world, who is expressing anxieties, expressing what a lot of us think in our heads. And I really admire her for that.
When is her next chance to pass Lindsey Vonn for the women's World Cup victory record?
It will come up next Sunday at Super-G in Cortina. She has won that race before. Then she's got two giant slaloms and two slaloms the following week. So I think before the end of January, she will get her 83rd — and probably more than that, 83rd, 84th, maybe 85th — win.
You talk about going beyond that 84th. Of course she's also eyeing the all time mark for World Cup victories by a man or a woman, which is currently held by the legendary Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden. And given that Shiffrin is only 27 years old, is it inevitable that she will become the winningest World Cup skier of all time?
I mean, it's sports, so you can never say anything is guaranteed. But I think in Mikaela’s case, as long as she stays healthy and doesn't have an injury, I think she's going to hit the 86-mark and just keep going. I mean, she could get up into 100 and more.
More from Vermont Public: Middlebury College figure skater competes in World University Games
You're in Lake Placid now, you're covering the 2023 World University Games. I spoke recently with 20-year-old Middlebury College student Ting Cui, who's competing in figure skating in these games. Are there some other athletes with Vermont ties that you'll be watching here?
Yeah, so I'm at the cross-country venues. I think one of the big names here is Will Koch. He is a student at the University of Colorado, but he grew up in Peru, Vermont, and he is Bill Koch’s son, and Bill won America's first cross-country skiing medal in 1976. He won a silver in the 30k.
Another teammate, Greg Burt, who's from Huntington, Vermont, skis for UVM. And Annie McColgan, who races for UVM. And then there are a number of biathletes here. Bjorn Westervelt cross-country skis for UVM, but he's from Stowe, and he's a biathlete. Tim Cobb from Westford, Vermont, goes to Montana State University. Those are some of Vermonters competing here.
And could you talk a little bit about the scope and the significance of these games? For some, they're a springboard for Olympic participation.
They are, and in fact, some of the athletes from other countries have already participated in the Olympics. And this could be the first major international competition for some of these college students. This is a chance for them to compete and come into Olympic-style games, because we've got events going on here at Mount Van Hoevenberg. There's alpine skiing at Whiteface; hockey at the Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, so it's taking advantage of a lot of these venues that were used in the 1980 Olympics.
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