Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates after winning the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup women's slalom on Nov. 25, 2018 in Killington, Vt.
KILLINGTON, Vt. — Mikaela Shiffrin is dominant in slalom. Like the Roger Federer of alpine skiing. Perhaps even better.
On a foggy, rainy day at Killington in her best event, slalom, Shiffrin earned her 45th world cup win. Her two-run time of 1:43.25 was 0.57 seconds ahead of runner-up Petra Vlhova from Slovakia (1:43.82). In her second run, Vlhova broke a first-run tie with reigning Olympic slalom gold medalist Frida Hansdotter from Sweden, who rounded out the podium in third (1:44.33).
“I knew it was going to be a fight because it was just tough conditions today,” Shiffrin said. “It was pretty sloppy snow. But I just figured everybody has to fight; if I fight harder, we’ll see what happens.”
Vlhova is the only woman other than Shiffrin to have won a slalom world cup race last season. But she knows how tough it is to beat Shiffrin.
“She’s perfect in every turn,” said the Slovakian.
Even on a rutted foggy slope where Shiffrin sometimes didn’t even know if she was still on course.
It was Shiffrin’s third consecutive slalom win at Killington. Shiffrin has never lost here in her favorite alpine ski discipline. And it was her 18th win in the past 23 world cup slaloms — since she returned to competition in February 2016 from a two-month injury break. It’s a win rate of 78 percent.
At the height of his tennis career, from Wimbledon in 2005 to the US Open in 2007, Federer reached 10 Grand Slam finals in men’s singles. And he won seven of those titles — a 70 percent win rate. The New York Times recently reported that Shiffrin shadowed Federer at a few events last spring, watching how the tennis champion comports himself with fans.
But 23-year-old Shiffrin was more excited about the other American racers in the Killington slalom race, with 15,000 fans cheering through the drizzle and fog.
“Three Americans in the top 30 today!” Shiffrin told the crowd right after the finish.
Paula Moltzan, a 24-year-old junior at the University of Vermont, finished 17th and scored world cup points for the second time in her career. Her second run was the fourth fastest and was only 0.04 behind Shiffrin’s second run time. Moltzan works as a river raft guide and nanny during the summer and wasn’t on snow this season until Nov. 10.
Starting 48th in the first run, Nina O’Brien fought through a rugged course and earned a second run (by finishing in the top 30). Second run, she moved up to 23rd and also scored her first world cup points. In 2015, O’Brien, 20, graduated from Burke Mountain Academy, Shiffrin’s alma mater. Earlier this month, O’Brien trained with Shiffrin in Colorado.
“It’s awesome to train with her,” said O’Brien. “There’s a lot I can learn from just watching her and just talking to her about skiing.
“It’s been a while since we’ve had a really strong showing,” said Shiffrin after making her way to the post-race press conference and signing hundreds (maybe thousands) of autographs along the way. “I watched Nina’s first run today and was like that’s the kind of fight that I’m going to have to have in the second run.”
With 34 slalom world cup wins, Shiffrin is one shy of matching her idol, Marlies Schild of Austria, for the all-time slalom wins record. She could tie that number on Dec. 22 in Courchevel, France, and potentially surpass it a week later in Semmering, Austria.
With 45 world cup wins overall, Shiffrin sits in fifth place among women with the most world cup victories. Lindsey Vonn leads the group with 82. And Shiffrin is 10th in all-time wins among all alpine ski racers. Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark has won the most: 86 world cups in his 16-year career
At her current win rate (and assuming that she is not sidelined by injuries), Shiffrin could surpass Vonn and Stenmark by the Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022. Shiffrin will be 26 years old during those Games.
Last season, Shiffrin won 12 world cup races — matching the most that Vonn ever won in one season (2012). The previous year, Shiffrin won 11.
In his best season, Stenmark won 13 (1979). Hermann Maier, the Austrian speed demon, also won 13 at his height (2001). Swiss skier Vreni Schneider has won the most in one season — 14 world cup wins in 1989.
But none of them have maintained that win rate for more than one winter.
For all her victories — that also include two Olympic and three world championship titles — Shiffrin is more comfortable with the process of winning than the physical trophies.
When asked where she keeps her trophies — minus the livestock that she has won (three reindeer in Levi, Finland, named Rudolph, Sven and Mr. Gru) — Shiffrin said, “I guess various places.”
Her Nana, Pauline Condron, now 97, has a few in her house in western Massachusetts. Condron first watched her granddaughter race at Killington two years ago, and it brought Shiffrin to tears.
The rest are “someplace safe,” said Shiffrin. They are not on display, at least not yet. She has two large crystal globes for winning the overall world cup title the past two years, plus five smaller globes for the slalom title. She also has 45 world cup trophies, like the locally crafted Simon Pearce glass statues and vases and Vermont Teddy Bears from her Killington wins.
“I kind of have an issue with putting your trophies right in the middle of your house where everybody who walks in is like, ‘Oh wow, have you won something?’” said Shiffrin with a self-deprecating laugh.
She likes the crystal globes from an aesthetic standpoint and might display them at some point. “Aside from being in your face about it,” she noted, “they’re just a nice decoration.”
From Killington, Shiffrin flies to Lake Louise, Alberta, for her first speed races of the season. Last year, she won one of the two world cup downhills at the Canadian ski resort. Will she get win number 46?
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered five Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.