It is done. The countdown is counted. The record number has been reached. On Saturday, Mikaela Shiffrin won her 87th World Cup race with the slalom in Are, replacing Ingemar Stenmark as the most successful runner in alpine skiing history. Finally, one might say. Because the question of the record haunted and irritated Shiffrin, as if the deeper meaning of her career or even her life as an athlete depended on it. She herself does not count her victories. And she rejects the comparison. The name Stenmark is "synonymous with ski racing" for the young American, who will celebrate her 28th birthday this Monday. He had set the standard. For all time. Not them.
Stenmark, on the other hand, who turns 67 next Saturday, admires Shiffrin for her way of skiing and believes she can achieve 100 successes – at least. The elegant Swede was stylistically ahead of his time, but secured his 86 victories in the 1970s and 80s exclusively in the technical disciplines – 40 in slalom, 46 in giant slalom. Shiffrin, on the other hand, was already at the top in downhill and super-G, combined and parallel races. Stenmark is also very impressed by this, "because I would never have been able to do that". Unlike the American, the Swede was not a complete skier.
Versatility speaks for Shiffrin
The only time he jumped into a downhill race because he needed points for the combination was in 1981 in Kitzbühel. But on the Streif, the great aesthete did not cut a good figure, reaching the finish line with a bang and more than ten seconds behind. The ride was a borderline experience for him, while the legendary ZDF sports reporter Harry Valérien feared for Stenmark's health.
Even if competitors cannot be compared with a distance of 40 years – and not women and men at that: The versatility clearly speaks for Shiffrin. She masters all disciplines if she only competes.
And the load beyond the slopes is also on a completely different level. The silent man from Tärnaby got away with reacting emphatically monosyllabically and exclusively factually to reporters' questions. Otherwise, he was left alone. On the other hand, the lively woman from Vail, since she was world champion for the first time at the age of 17, appears as a public figure of contemporary history – and has to prove herself in this difficult slalom on sometimes slippery terrain.
She also understands this technology, plays along and delivers. As a child of her time, Shiffrin serves fans and followers on various social media platforms, but also lets the public participate via classic media. Shiffrin acts openly – also because she wants to shape and tell the story about her life as best she can.
She not only celebrates her victories publicly, but also faces defeats, as in the trilogy of her elimination at the Olympics. Even the tragic accidental death of her father, her love for fellow skier Aleksander Aamodt Kilde or even problems because of her female cycle – Shiffrin chooses the escape forward and communicates. The success of their lives is not decided between the goal poles.
The question of the meaning of life, the universe and all the rest was answered with "42" in the legendary novel "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", which appeared in Stenmark's time. Generations of science fiction fans puzzled over the significance of this supposedly magical number. But the answer was just a joke that author Douglas Adams once made while writing. Even 87 is just a number. At least with Mikaela Shiffrin. The magnitude of their performance does not depend on the amount of their victories.