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Extraordinary Shiffrin can write her own history

Extraordinary Shiffrin can write her own history

17/03/2019 at 22:04Updated 18/03/2019 at 20:30

After an astonishing end to a record-breaking season, Mikaela Shiffrin has the world at her feet, writes Pete Sharland.

Every so often in sport a talent comes along who feels as if they could break every record going.

And then a talent comes along who changes absolutely everything.

For years ski fans were spoiled by the incredible dominance of Lindsey Vonn in the women's tour. The American looked as if she would be the skier to finally beat Ingemar Stenmark’s legendary World Cup title haul of 86 victories.

Lindsey Vonn #22 from the United States after failing to finish the slalom with silver medalist Mikaela Shiffrin #19 of the United States during the Alpine Skiing - Ladies' Alpine Combined Slalom at Jeongseon Alpine Centre on February 22, 2018 in PyeongC

Lindsey Vonn #22 from the United States after failing to finish the slalom with silver medalist Mikaela Shiffrin #19 of the United States during the Alpine Skiing - Ladies' Alpine Combined Slalom at Jeongseon Alpine Centre on February 22, 2018 in PyeongCGetty Images

That she couldn’t get there, she finished her career on 82, speaks more to the series of devastating injuries she suffered rather than any lack of talent.

Vonn will be remembered as one of the greatest skiers of all-time, but if Mikaela Shiffrin has her way then there is no chance she will be remembered as the best ever.

At 24 years of age Shiffrin has just won her third overall World Cup Crystal Globe. That is part of a remarkable quadruple this season that also saw her lift the titles in the Slalom, Giant Slalom and Super-G.

Video - 'The day belongs to her again!' - See how Shiffrin claimed giant slalom title

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It is the first time in history that any skier, male or female, has won those four globes in one year. It is the first time she has won the Giant Slalom or Super-G titles, but it is her sixth in the Slalom, which is already the joint-highest tally of any female skier. In total she had an astonishing 17 World Cup victories this season.

It comes in the same year that she won Slalom gold at the World Championships for the fourth time in a row, as well as taking gold in the Super-G. A year ago at PyeongChang she took Olympic gold in the Giant Slalom.

To put that into some perspective Vonn was 23 when she won her first World Cup title and 24 when she won her first world title, 25 for her first Olympic gold.

Shiffrin was 17, 17 and 18 respectively when she reached the same landmarks.

She now stands on the cusp of something truly special, something that could transcend her sport.

Video - Shiffrin: I wanted to really, really earn it

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When Shiffrin was coming through the ranks as a teenager she was spoken about not just as a potential heir to Vonn, but as someone who could have a Tiger Woods like impact on skiing.

People gravitate to dominant figures in sport, even if they don’t always like them, there’s something in human nature that appreciates an athlete who shows such prowess.

Shiffrin benefits from being an extremely likeable character, even if she isn’t the most extroverted member of the tour, and she could achieve such levels of dominance that will force the rest of the world to sit up and take notice.

Next season Shiffrin will take to the slopes on 60 World Cup victories, 22 behind Vonn (the women’s leader) and a further four behind Stenmark.

Beyond that she currently has seven World Championships medals, some way off Christl Cranz’s record tally of 15, so there is still work to be done in catching her in two years' time at Cortina.

And then she can look to Beijing in 2022: Janica Kostelic holds the female record for skiing Olympic golds with four, Shiffrin is already halfway there…

That these landmarks, which are by definition the pinnacle of her sport, feel reachable in the next few years only goes to demonstrate just how remarkable Shiffrin really is.

By the time she retires there is a very good chance that every single record in the book will belong to her and it’s hard to imagine anyone catching her given the distance she could put between herself and the rest of the competition.

Shiffrin has openly spoken about how the stress and pressure on her has recently begun to take its toll, she’s a different person to the carefree teenager who took the circuit by storm all those years ago.

Video - Shiffrin breaks down in tears as she finally lifts giant slalom Crystal Globe

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Yet this season she has seemed far more in control than last year, far more at ease with herself.

Shiffrin knows she should win pretty much every race she enters. Equally she knows the rules of life mean she won’t. And she seems okay with that.

This has been the single most impressive season of Shiffrin’s career, and one of the most impressive of any skier ever.

It may well turn out to be that this season proves to be the turning point, when Shiffrin turns into a sheer force of nature in a sport that has historically been all about the finest of margins.

US Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates as she receives the overall FIS Alpine ski giant slalom crystal globe trophy

US Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates as she receives the overall FIS Alpine ski giant slalom crystal globe trophyGetty Images

When Shiffrin was nine at a summer ski camp the coaches asked her and her fellow participants to write down their dream goal. Shiffrin wrote that she wanted to compete at the Olympics at 16.

The only reason she didn’t was that there were no Olympics when she was 16.

When asked after her victory at Soldeu what her plans were now Shiffrin said: "I'm going shopping in Barcelona either tomorrow or the next day."

But after some much-deserved, but probably short, time off you can be sure Shiffrin will be back in the gym and then eventually back on the slopes, getting ready to do it all over again.

The rest of the skiing world will merely wait with baited breath to see what artistry she will bring to the snow next season.

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