The long World Cup campaign is still in its early days, and Mikaela Shiffrin stands to make all kinds of history at the Olympics in February, but the EagleVail superstar may have already achieved the highlight of her season.
With more than two dozen family members in attendance — including the 96-year-old maternal grandmother she lovingly calls Nana — Shiffrin dominated Sunday’s World Cup slalom at Killington, Vt., to pick up her first victory of the season and third podium in four races. Shiffrin went to high school at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy.
“It’s so incredible to share these moments with everybody here, with my family,” Shiffrin told reporters in the finish area. “My Nana and my best friend are here, and those are two people that I really rarely see. These are moments that are above the Olympics, above world championships, above anything else. This day, in and of itself, will make the season successful for me. That’s really incredible.”
At age 22, Shiffrin now has 32 World Cup victories. That’s as many as Aksel Lund Svindal, a Norwegian downhiller who is one of the brightest stars of the current men’s tour, and it is one behind American Bode Miller, who was 32 years old when he captured his 32nd win.
Shiffrin left no doubt in this one, posting the fastest time in both runs to win the race by 1.64 seconds over Petra Vlhova of Slovakia, who won the season’s first slalom two weeks ago in Levi, Finland. Shiffrin was second in that race, but on Sunday she charged on both runs.
“I skied today like I was chasing,” Shiffrin said. “I was skiing hard. It wasn’t perfect, but it was aggressive. Most of the turns were clean, and I’m really proud of that. That’s how I want to feel for the rest of the season.”
Shiffrin finished second in Saturday’s giant slalom, and she now leads Vlhova in the World Cup overall standings with 305 points to Vlhova’s 221.
“It’s always a pleasure to race in the U.S., and in Europe as well,” Shiffrin said. “But here, I could hear everybody so loud at the start, and they just carried me to the finish. It’s so fun to ski when you know that everybody is supporting you whether you win or you lose or you crash, just as long as you put in an effort. They just want to see something amazing happen. It’s like impossible to lose in that way, and that’s a feeling I don’t get very often.”
This week the women’s tour moves to Lake Louise, Alberta, for a pair of downhillls and a super-G. Shiffrin may have found a key in Killington to serve as the foundation of her bid to repeat as World Cup overall champion. She found the freedom to put down two aggressive runs, avoiding a temptation to be cautious that sometimes inhibits her.
Best of all, she got to do it with her Nana watching.
“She’s like the most incredible person anybody will ever meet,” Shiffrin said. “She’s absolutely an angel. It’s really cool to be with her.”