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Why Mikaela Shiffrin’s Fourth Reindeer Has An Extra Special Name

By Chrös McDougall | Nov. 24, 2019, 2:21 p.m. (ET)

Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates with Ingemar the reindeer at the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup on Nov. 23, 2019 in Levi, Finland.


On Rudolph, on Sven on Mr. Gru, on … Ingemar.

Mikaela Shiffrin, owner of her fourth reindeer by merit of winning a fourth slalom title Saturday at the alpine skiing world cup in Levi, Finland, bestowed a particularly meaningful name on her latest sleigh-puller, which she announced on social media Sunday.

Ingemar, as in Ingemar Stenmark, the iconic Swedish skier who, for nearly 33 years, held the record for most career world cup slalom victories with 40 — until yesterday, when Shiffrin won No. 41.

“I was thinking about this name yesterday after the race when someone mentioned the record, but there were a couple things to sort through before announcing it,” the two-time Olympic gold medalist skier explained on an Instagram post Sunday. “First was to ask for Ingemar’s permission of course! But I also wanted to take a quiet moment to think about the day and what this race meant to me.”

Shiffrin won the race with a combined time of 1:57.57, a result that was confirmed when Slovakian rival Petra Vlhova, skiing in pole position, was unable to finish her second run.

“The truth is, it did not feel like a record-breaking day for me,” Shiffrin continued. “It felt like a day. A race day. A wonderful slalom race day, albeit a little foggy 😝. And now I have this record to my name — a milestone that I never in my wildest dreams thought I would achieve when I was younger — but all I could think was, Ingemar was better. I don’t see it as ‘breaking his record,’ I am just continuing it.

“So even though the idea of naming my reindeer after Ingemar was born from the talk of ‘breaking’ the record, in the end that is not why I chose to do it. It is simply a tribute to one of absolute greatest ski racers to ever live.💛”

Shiffrin, at age 24, now has 61 world cup victories to her name, putting her on pace to break the women’s record of 82 held by compatriot Lindsey Vonn and the overall record of 86 that’s also held by Stenmark.

Stenmark won his final world cup race in 1989 at age 32. Coming off a season in which she won a record 17 world cup races (out of 26 starts), Shiffrin in theory has plenty of time to catch up.

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However, Shiffrin isn’t necessarily going to be out chasing those records to the max. She told media earlier this year that she wasn’t certain how long she’d continue ski racing and suggested she might hang up her boots earlier than some other recent stalwarts.

“I don’t know if I’m going to make it until I’m 30, if I’m going to retire before that, if it’s going to be after that,” Shiffrin said. “I probably don’t see myself going well beyond 30, but at the same time, if I’m at that point and I’m still having an absolute blast and sort of still reaching my own standards of skiing, then I’ll keep going.”

After all, the Eagle-Vail, Colorado, native has already accomplished much in a career that’s already extended for nearly a decade on the top level.

She finished her first world cup race in November 2011 at age 16, and a little less than a year later won her first world cup race. In 2014, she became the youngest Olympic women’s slalom champion at age 18. She went on to win another Olympic gold medal, this time in giant slalom, in 2018, and to date has also won five world titles as well as three world cup overall titles.

And now she has another reindeer, joining the three she won in 2013 (Rudolph), 2016 (Sven) and 2018 (Mr. Gru), and which will remain housed and cared for year-round in Lapland.

“Now I have a little farm,” she said.

Chrös McDougall has covered the Olympic and Paralympic movements for TeamUSA.org since 2009 on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc. He is based in Minneapolis-St. Paul.

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