ÅRE, Sweden — Two minutes after earning her 87th career win, Mikaela Shiffrin finally understood the significance of setting the record for most World Cup victories.
In the middle of the awards ceremony, a man in a red jacket unexpectedly stepped forward from the crowd and that was the moment Shiffrin first realized what it all meant to her.
It was her brother, Taylor, who had secretly flown in to Sweden and now came over to hug her.
“I’ve said it the whole time, I don’t know how to define that,” Shiffrin said about the record. “But when you have these special moments ... seeing my brother and (sister-in-law) Kristi and my mom (and coach, Eileen) in the finish today, that’s what makes it memorable.”
Shiffrin set the outright World Cup record for most career victories by winning a slalom Saturday, breaking a tie with Ingemar Stenmark on the all-time overall winners list between men and women. The Swede competed in the 1970s and 80s.
Shiffrin had matched Stenmark’s mark of 86 wins with victory in a giant slalom Friday.
“Pretty hard to comprehend,” said Shiffrin, who crouched and rested her head on her knees after finishing the final run. Runner-up Wendy Holdener of Switzerland and third-place home favorite Anna Swenn Larsson came over to congratulate her.
“My brother and sister-in-law are here and I didn’t know they were coming, that makes this so special,” Shiffrin said. “They flew here for this. I don’t know how they did it, I don’t know how they got here.”
The victory gave Shiffrin the outright record 12 years to the day after her first race on the World Cup, as a 15-year-old at a GS in Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic.
In a course-side interview, Shiffrin said she's “so proud of the team, this whole season” for being ”strong and positive" and “having the right goals.”
Shiffrin set the record less than a month after her head coach, Mike Day, left the team in the second week of the world championships in France.
Day's departure, however, has not affected Shiffrin's achievements, as she next won GS gold and slalom silver at the worlds, wrapped up her overall World Cup title at speed races in Norway last weekend, and celebrated back-to-back wins in Sweden to become the winningest ski racer in the 56-year history of the World Cup.
Saturday’s result marked the American’s sixth slalom win of the season and the record-extending 53rd career win in the discipline.
Shiffrin also has a women's record-equaling 20 wins in GS, as well as five in super-G, five in parallel, three in downhill, and one in combined.
“It’s pretty hard to describe — and it’s not over yet, which is even more ridiculous,” said Shiffrin, who turns 28 Monday and is expected to continue until at the least the 2026 Winter Olympics in Italy.
Apart from Stenmark's record, which she never actively chased, Shiffrin had no pressure on her shoulders going into her 246th career World Cup race Saturday, having already locked up the discipline title in slalom. On Friday, she had also secured the GS season title.
“I still had the feeling at the start of this run that I have every race, it’s like, I shouldn’t feel pressure. But somehow I feel something in my heartbeat,” Shiffrin said about having to protect her lead after dominating the first run.
Shiffrin posted the fifth-fastest time in the second run to beat Holdener by 0.92 seconds. Swenn Larsson was 0.95 back and the last racer to finish within a second of Shiffrin’s time. Shiffrin’s teammate Paula Moltzan finished 1.54 behind in fourth in the American’s first race since fracturing her left hand last month.
“The best feeling is to ski on the second run when of course you want to win, you have a lead so you have to be sort of be smart but also, I just wanted to be fast, too, and ski the second run like its own race,” Shiffrin said.
“I did exactly that and that is amazing.”
The race took place at a venue where many key moments in Shiffrin’s career happened. At the Swedish lakeside resort, she earned her first World Cup win in 2012 and took slalom gold at the 2019 world championships to become the first skier to win the world title in one discipline four times in a row.
However, Are was also the place where she sustained a knee injury that kept her away from the slopes for two months in the 2015-16 season, and where she was due to race again in March 2020 after the death of her father the previous month, but those races were called off on short notice after Shiffrin's arrival in Sweden because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Shiffrin is set to compete in three more races this season at next week’s World Cup Finals in Soldeu, Andorra.
While she planned to skip Wednesday's downhill, she will race in a super-G the following day, and in a slalom and GS during the weekend.