American skier Mikaela Shiffrin equalled Ingemar Stenmark’s record of 86 World Cup wins on Friday with a resounding victory in the giant slalom at Are on what she called “a spectacular day”.
Shiffrin finished 0.64 seconds ahead of the Italian Federica Brignone to match the milestone that has stood for 34 years.
A few days shy of her 28th birthday her exceptional run continued with her 12th World Cup win after securing a fifth overall crystal globe last weekend.
She has a shot at claiming the record outright in Saturday’s slalom at the Swedish ski station where fittingly she had opened her World Cup account back in 2012 as a 17-year-old.
Are also happens to be Stenmark’s own home turf.
“I don’t take it for granted to be in this place where people ask me when I’m going to win 86 or 87,” she said.
“That’s a pretty cool place to be, even though it can be difficult to focus sometimes, but today I felt like the focus was there when I needed it to be.
“It was really fun to ski and that is how I hope it would be.”
“This is a spectacular day. It’s amazing, incredible,” added the Colorado-born skier.
The US ski superstar had set herself up for this record-levelling performance after dominating the first leg of Friday’s race.
She went into the second run holding a 0.58sec advantage over Canada’s Valerie Grenier. Franziska Gritsch was placed third at 0.93 with the rest of her rivals over one second adrift.
‘Fight for it’
And she duly cemented the deal with a combined time of 1min 54.64sec to beat Brignone with Swede Sara Hector in third at 0.92s.
To add further lustre to an extraordinary day she clinched the giant slalom crystal globe.
“I knew the (giant) globe was locked in before the second run, I just wanted to fight for it.
“I was also lucky with the weather and the light on my first run.”
One of the dangers between Shiffrin and history was Swiss Lara Gut-Behrami, who failed to finish the first run. Gritsch crashed out in the second run.
This was her third shot at drawing level with Stenmark, after moving to just one away from the benchmark set in 1989 with her 85th win in the slalom at Spindleruv Mlyn last month.
Like Shiffrin, Stenmark relished the slalom and giant slalom with the Swede dominating the two disciplines from 1975 before retiring in 1989.
But over the years she has developed into a skier for all disciplines with her World Cup haul comprising 52 in slalom, 20 in giant slalom, five in super-G, three in downhill, five in parallel slalom and one combined.
Shiffrin arrived at Are on the back of the world championships in France where she won gold in both the giant slalom and super-G and silver in the slalom.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist was assured of winning a fifth overall World Cup title last weekend at Kvitfjell.
One of her greatest admirers, Stenmark himself, told AFP this week that he believed Shiffrin had years of success ahead of her.
“That’s what I thought four years ago, that she would be the first to win 100 races. And I think she can do even more, if she stays healthy,” said the Swedish ski legend.
The 66-year-old hailed Shiffrin as the complete skier.
“She has everything. Good physical strength, good balance and she has a strong head.
“She’s so good that the other skiers have to risk more to beat her, and then they make small mistakes. She can ski more safe and still win.”
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