Mikaela Shiffrin: America’s greatest athlete you’ve never heard of



Mikaela Shiffrin made her World Cup skiing debut in March 2011 at the age of 16.

Milton Woolfenden, Staff Writer

“You are fucking insane.”

That was how Sweden’s Anna Swenn-Larsson congratulated Mikaela Shiffrin after the American won her 87th career race in Åre, Sweden on March 11.

The win made Shiffrin the most successful World Cup alpine skier of all time, surpassing Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 victories, a record that had stood for 34 years. The record was one that many, including at times Shiffrin herself, thought would never be broken.

But in 2020, Shiffrin considered retiring after the sudden death of her father at the family’s home in Colorado.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Stenmark said that he believes Shiffrin is an all-around better skier than he was. He also said that, barring she can stay healthy, he is confident Shiffrin can surpass 100 career wins.

In January, Shiffrin claimed her 83rd career win, a giant slalom in Kronplatz, Italy.

The win moved Shiffrin into second place all-time, surpassing fellow American Lindsey Vonn’s previous mark of 82.

For reference to how far Shiffrin is separated from the pack in terms of wins, her closest competitor, male or female, Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland, currently sits at 37 career wins.

Shiffrin has won 35.4% of her races and podiumed (includes second and third place) in 55.6%.

Åre was not only where Shiffrin won her record-setting 87th race but also her first race back in 2012.

The victory also came 12 years to the day when a then 16-year-old Shiffrin made her World Cup debut.

Shiffrin is one of the greatest American athletes of all time, but most Americans have never heard of her.

When most people argue about the GOAT of American sports, they look to the “Big Four” sports leagues or mainstream Olympic sports.

While by no means should we write off the accomplishments of Lebron James, Michael Jordan, and Tom Brady, they all played team sports. Shiffrin obviously has coaches and a support team, but when it comes down to it ski racing is an individual sport. Out on the course, it’s all on her to perform.

The world of ski racing is like a cult in that only people who ski race pay attention to, and watch World Cup races. As a result, ski racers can be written off for their achievements, in part as a result of the lack of media coverage ski racing receives in the U.S.

While Shiffrin hasn’t outright agreed with them, many analysts argue that she is more popular in Europe than in the U.S.

Shiffrin made her World Cup debut on March 11, 2011, at the age of 16. In February 2014, with seven wins and a World Championship gold medal to her name, the 18-year-old Shiffrin headed to Sochi for her first Olympics.

By winning gold in the slalom, Shiffrin became the youngest slalom Olympic champion, male or female, in history.

In 2019, Shiffrin set the new record for most wins in a season (17), a record that had stood for 30 years.

In the same season, Shiffrin also became the only skier to win the overall, giant slalom, slalom and Super-G titles in the same season. She also broke the record for most consecutive medals in a single discipline at the World Championships, earning her fourth-consecutive slalom gold medal.

By winning in giant slalom at this year’s World Championships Shiffrin became the most-decorated American skier of all time with 14 medals. She also became only the fourth woman to medal in all disciplines at the World Championships.

The win also marked her sixth straight World Championships with a medal, an all-time record.

She is the only skier to win in all six World Cup disciplines. She holds the overall record for most career slalom wins (53). In addition, by winning the final race of the season this past Sunday, a giant slalom in Soldeu, Andorra, she became the winningest women’s skier in giant slalom (21).

The podium finish, Shiffrin’s 138th in her career, made her the women’s all-time leader, breaking Vonn’s record of 137.

She has 15 total season titles, five overall, and 10 in the various disciplines. Seven of her 15 are in slalom, a women’s record, and one shy of tying Stenmark for the overall lead with eight.

She needs two more overall globes to be the all-time leader, and seven more discipline titles to be the all-time leader.

Looking ahead, Shiffrin has hinted that she intends to race in the 2026 Winter Olympics. If she does, it would be her fourth Olympics in the midst of her 16th season on the World Cup. At the opening ceremony, she would be 30 years old.

If she does race in 2026, depending on how many events she races and medals in, Shiffrin could become the most decorated women’s skier and the most decorated American skier in Olympic history.

So just because she may not be a household name, that doesn’t mean Shiffrin’s accomplishments should be ignored. She has more than earned the right to be considered one of the greatest athletes of all time.