Mikaela Shiffrin, Atop the Mountain Alone,The Colorado alpine ski legend surpasses Ingemar Stenmark for the most World Cup wins ever.

The final room in sports—really a lounge, with excellent snacks and Wi-Fi—is reserved for the truly singular. It isn’t merely for the trophy-winners and record-shatterers, but for the culture-changers and boundary pushers. Athletes in the final room are super-achievers, of course, and very often mononyms (Michael, Serena) but career-long perfection isn’t required. It actually helps to have a setback or two. Builds a little public empathy, informed by the memory of defeat.
Shiffrin’s already there, spectacularly, at age 27. Eighty-seven World Cup wins is an outrageous mark, one more than the all-time record held by Ingemar Stenmark, and now five ahead of prior women’s record holder, Lindsey Vonn. You can argue among yourselves as to who belongs atop Alpine skiing’s greatest-ever mantle but Shiffrin must be in every conversation about the best to ever come down the mountain.  
The 66-year-old Stenmark, who has been gracious about Shiffrin’s pursuit—“She’s much better than I was…I could never have been so good in all disciplines,” he told the Associated Press the other day—expects the Coloradan to reach 100 World Cup wins, or even more. 
It’s crazy to think 100 might be conservative. But Shiffrin goes on heaters, grabs wins in bunches. (Remember 2019?) Stenmark raced in World Cups until he was 33; Vonn competed until 32 in a career pockmarked by injuries. Shiffrin turns 28 on Monday, and has avoided a career-altering injury.  
It’s her journey now, alone. Shiffrin has been competing at skiing’s highest level almost half of her life, and must draw upon fresh sources of inspiration to stay motivated. What do you chase when you have caught all of your aspirations? Few athletes ever know. 
The Journal’s Rachel Bachman had a story this winter about a summit between Shiffrin and Roger Federer in which the Swiss tennis legend helped her with that riddle, rekindling Shiffrin’s passion for the sport at a vulnerable moment. 
Roger and Mikaela. That’s a meeting between two mononyms with a key to the final room. 
Federer (a known ski buff), Stenmark and many others will tell you what’s so impressive about Shiffrin’s talent is its range, how she’s mastered not just the sport’s technical side, but its raw, edge-of-reckless speed. Slalom and Giant Slalom wins are the bulk of her World Cup haul, but there are three downhill wins in there, too. 
I’d argue Shiffrin’s triumphs are made more compelling by her occasional setbacks, like her uncharacteristic letdown at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. This was Shiffrin considered at the peak of her powers, a face of the Games, eyes of the world upon her, skiing out of turns she habitually carved with grace.  
It became an indelible moment of the Games: a Shiffrin sitting on her skis, arms crossed, as stunned as the rest of us. 
She became human in an instant, no longer the preternatural sensation without weakness, but a fellow person trying very hard to figure out how it all went wrong. Shiffrin had endured a life-altering loss with the 2020 death of her father, Jeff, and though Shiffrin and her mother and coach, Eileen, had rallied to return and compete after the tragedy, one got the feeling there was still a lot left unprocessed. 
Mikaela Shiffrin won the women’s slalom on Saturday in Are, Sweden.PHOTO: DANIEL STILLER/ZUMA PRESS
She talked her way through it. In the days and months after Beijing, Shiffrin didn’t try to hide the stress or downplay her grief. She became another high-performing athlete willing to talk in public about her mental health, a legacy I suspect will wind up being just as important to her as any medal, if it isn’t already. 
Since then, she’s seemed at peace. The pursuit of Vonn’s and Stenmark’s records hasn’t been a cakewalk—Shiffrin has serious rivals on the circuit, but she seems comfortable with the good days and not-as-good ones. As the all-time marks approached, it didn’t feel like a snowball of pressure. Shiffrin even added some charismatic symmetry, getting win No. 87 in the same place (Are, Sweden) where she won No. 1. 
She was going to do this. She knew it, and so did the rest of us. This is the comfort of true greatness and perseverance. It’s the final room, and it’s where Mikaela Shiffrin now lives. 

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