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History beckons for Mikaela Shiffrin on Friday when the American skier competes in one of her best events.
Shiffrin is seeking a record-tying 86th win on the World Cup skiing circuit, a number that would equal Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark’s mark from the 1970s and 80s.
Shiffrin earned win No. 85 six weeks ago. She had three opportunities to match Stenmark’s record last week but those were all speed races — not Shiffrin’s specialty.
On Friday, Shiffrin will again try to make history in a giant slalom in Åre, Sweden. That will be followed by a slalom on Saturday.
Shiffrin has won 19 World Cup giant slaloms and 52 slaloms in her career, along with an Olympic gold medal in each.
Stenmark has stated he does not plan to be in Åre, preferring to watch on television, but he gave Shiffrin an enthusiastic endorsement in a recent interview with The Associated Press.
“She’s much better than I was. You cannot compare,” said Stenmark, an all-time great in both slalom and giant slalom who preferred not to race in downhill.
Shiffrin, though, can do it all. In the two super-Gs and one downhill last weekend in Kvitfjell, Norway, she placed between fourth and seventh. Those results were enough for her to win her fifth overall World Cup title with six races left this season.
“I can take a little bit of weight of my shoulders,” Shiffrin said in Kvitfjell after moving into second place on the all-time women’s list, one behind Annemarie Moser-Pröll. “That was like the big, big goal for me this season.”
The title also moved Shiffrin ahead of former United States teammate Lindsey Vonn, who won four overall titles and 82 World Cup races before retiring four years ago.
Now it’s back to chasing Stenmark’s record, and it’s looking good. Three of Shiffrin’s 19 victories in giant slalom came in her last three starts in the event, all wire-to-wire wins in January.
And the Swedish resort of Åre could also provide a boost. That’s where a 17-year-old Shiffrin first won a World Cup race, in slalom in December 2012.
It took until her 24th career start to get that first victory, but her win rate has soared since to 35 per cent — 85 wins in 244 races.
If No. 86 eludes Shiffrin in Sweden, she has up to four more opportunites next week at the season-ending World Cup Finals in Soldeu, Andorra.
She will turn 28 on Monday, two days before racing starts in the tiny principality tucked in the mountains between France and Spain.
“I think she can win more than 100,” Stenmark said. “It depends on how many years she continues. But for sure 100.”
Shiffrin has not publicly set such a lofty target, but it can be within reach if she pursues a sixth overall title to match Moser-Pröll, a 1970s downhill standout from Austria.
This week Shiffrin used her Twitter account to set a more cerebral goal: “Strive to be modest in the face of hubris.”