Shiffrin is much better than I was, says skiing legend Stenmark

Shiffrinov is much better than I was, claims ski legend Stenmark

Illustration photo – American skier Mikaela Shiffrin.

Stockholm – Mikaela Shiffrin is much better than I was, legendary Swedish skier Ingemar Stenmark told the AP. The American star is one win away from equaling Stenmark's record 86 World Cup wins.

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“It can't be compared at all, it's much better than I was,” says 66-year-old Stenmark, a star of the 1970s and 1980s. “She has everything. She's physically strong, has good technique and a strong head. I think it's that combination that makes her so good. And I'm also impressed with how she does in slalom and super-G and downhill. So good in all I wasn't in the disciplines,” said Stenmark.

The former Swedish star collected all his wins in the WC in spinning disciplines – 40 in slalom and 46 in giant slalom. Shiffrin is also strong in technical disciplines, with 52 wins in slalom, 19 in giant slalom and five in parallel events, but she also managed to win in super-G (5), downhill (3) and combined (1).

Stenmark knows these numbers well because he has followed Shiffrin's career closely. “I've seen most of her races. She has a good feel for the snow. She can adapt to different snow conditions,” the two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion praised the American.

After winning three medals at the World Championships in France, Shiffrin will return to the World Cup in Kvitfjell, Norway later this week, where she has two super giant slaloms and a downhill scheduled. If Stenmarka does not equalize here, he will have another chance the following week symbolically in Sweden, in the giant slalom or slalom in Aare.

Stenmark won't be there personally, even if it was an opportunity to congratulate Shiffrin on breaking the record. “No, I'm not going there. I'm sorry, but no. But of course I'll be watching on TV,” Stenmark said. He explained that he did not want to draw attention to Shiffrin on Swedish soil, when her opponents are domestic competitors, for example, Olympic giant slalom champion Sara Hector. “That's why it would seem a bit strange for me to go to Aare to celebrate Shiffrin when the Swedish skiers will also be there. If it was somewhere else, it would be easier,” he said.

He thus prepared himself for the opportunity to meet the most successful female skier in the history of the World Cup in person. “I don't know her personally, but she seems like a very nice person to me,” said Stenmark, who was last at the SP races in 2019 in Aare, where another American, Lindsey Vonn, invited him to her career farewell.

Stenmark and Shiffrin compete in very different eras. The 27-year-old Vail native has more races and disciplines at her disposal than Stenmark, plus there has been a dramatic evolution in technique since the end of his career.

“It's all completely different, but I liked it the way it was back in my day. Carving skis are the only thing I would take,” Stenmark said of the multi-cut skis that help with turning. “I think skiing today is easier than it used to be, but on the other hand it's more difficult to win because now there are a lot of great skiers. All you have to do is make a small mistake and it's hard to win.”

Although mistakes not even Shiffrin, who, for example, did not bring home a single medal from last year's Olympic Games in Beijing despite great expectations, still has an excellent success rate of 35 percent of the races won. “I think she'll win more than 100. It depends on how long she skis, but 100 for sure,” Stenmark predicts Shiffrin's continued dominance.