Mikaela Shiffrin starts season with wins record behind her, biggest goal ahead
Mikaela Shiffrin has the World Cup wins record behind her and, this season, no Olympics or world championships on the immediate horizon.
On the surface, it’s shaping up to be one of the calmer campaigns of her 13 years on the World Cup. One that she hopes ends with a female record-tying sixth overall title come March.
Shiffrin, 28, said the overall title, crowning the best all-around Alpine skier combining results from speed and technical disciplines, is her annual priority. So to tie Austrian Annemarie Moser-Pröll’s career record would “be the biggest accomplishment” of her athletic life.
Shiffrin feels more prepared going into Saturday’s season-opening giant slalom in Sölden, Austria (Peacock, 4 a.m. and 7 a.m. ET), than she did at this time last year. But she’s also taking into perspective last season, her second-best by wins (14), when she said she didn’t peak in the GS discipline until late December or January.
“I’m trying to take a little bit more of an approach of giving myself time to build into my best form,” she said. “I’m kind of looking forward to the race, less for results and more for just to get on a really, really good surface that’s not littered with rocks.”
The preparation, which Shiffrin emphasizes so much, was productive when conditions were ideal. Shiffrin has been in Europe for three weeks.
“We’ve been navigating, basically, small patches of snow between a lot of rocks,” she said.
The snow was better in Chile in August and September, but Shiffrin caught food poisoning, followed at home in Colorado by another, stronger sickness (tested negative for COVID) that wiped her out for a week and a half.
“I’m in a good place now,” she said, having traveled to Europe eight days earlier than she ever has, helping her acclimate.
Before all that, she said her final physical test results — U.S. team members are measured for strength and endurance — were better than the past two years.
Shiffrin noted she did quite a bit of running this summer, specifically trail running, a form of cross training she incorporated more over the last two years.
Another addition: Karin Harjo, a new head coach announced in March.
Harjo said Friday that not much changed from Shiffrin’s past offseasons with previous coach Mike Day (whom Shiffrin has repeatedly praised since she switched coaches). The rest of Shiffrin’s primary team, including her mom and coach Eileen and physical therapist Regan Dewhirst, remain.
“It’s a partnership. It’s not an authoritarian type of scenario,” said Harjo, who knew Shiffrin from working with the broader U.S. women’s team program from 2015-22. “Her being one of the best skiers of all time, I have a huge amount of respect for her and what she’s accomplished and what she can do. I learn from her every single day, so. really, it’s very much a partnership and working together towards a common goal, which is to get better every single day.”
If Shiffrin has similar results to last season, another storyline will emerge: a chase for 100 career World Cup wins. She won 14 times in 2022-23 to reach 88.
The only athlete with 100 World Cup victories in any Winter Olympic sport is Norwegian cross-country skier Marit Bjørgen, who won 114 individual World Cups in addition to her record 15 Winter Olympic medals.
“It’s not about results,” Harjo said. “It’s about her enjoying and improving every single day.”