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Lindsey Vonn: Shiffrin’s record-breaking is sign of progress

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Lindsey Vonn has been keeping track while Mikaela Shiffrin first matched her women’s World Cup skiing record of 82 wins earlier this month and then surpassed it with win No. 83 on Tuesday at a giant slalom in Italy.

Vonn offered her thoughts earlier this month about the record just before Shiffrin won her 82nd race.

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I’m really happy for Mikaela.

Records are meant to be broken and it’s a sign of progress. And if anyone is to break my record, I’m really happy that it’s an American.

She’s going to continue pushing the limits and continue to inspire other Americans. There were a lot of women who paved the way for me. And now it’s her turn to pave the way for the next generation.

It’s pretty impressive that the top two female skiers of all time are Americans in a sport historically dominated by Europeans. We’re 20 wins ahead (21 for Shiffrin with Tuesday’s victory) of the next woman (Annemarie Moser-Pröll of Austria with 62 wins), which is a substantial margin. So it’s not even really close. It just speaks for our country as a whole and what we’re capable of doing.

Ski racing might not be as popular as it used to be. Snowboarding and other freestyle sports have gained popularity. So Mikaela breaking the record now is really great for the sport. I hope that it generates a lot of kids getting into the sport. Hopefully, she’ll inspire the next American and hopefully Americans will stand 1-2-3 on the all-time list.

We’ve definitely had a very different journey to 82. She’s the absolute perfect technical skier and has also won in the speed disciplines. I was the downhiller who also had wins in the technical races. I unfortunately had many, many injuries, and my road was quite a bit longer. But she’s at an incredible pace to not just reach 82 but go well, well beyond that.

Catching Ingemar Stenmark’s men’s mark of 86 wins was always the ultimate goal for me, but with the injuries I sustained it just wasn’t possible. For her, the sky’s the limit. I don’t think that Stenmark is necessarily the benchmark. She’s going to set the new standard and we’ll just have to wait and see how high she’s able to go.

I knew from the very beginning that she would be the one to break all the records. But to be able to do it at such a young age is really impressive.

And I don’t think Mikaela should vary too much from her current approach. Not racing more speed events has done her well because she’s been able to stay injury free. Her plans are working pretty well. So I would probably just stick to what she’s been doing.

I remember when I first met Mikaela when we were training in Hinterreit (Austria) and she was starting out. I came up to her and I said, “Welcome to the team.” And I know that it can be a little intimidating at first because she was so young. But I said, “I’m always here if you ever need anything.” She was with her mom and she seemed really happy and excited to be with the team. I remember it perfectly.

We don’t get in touch that often, but I reached out to her when her dad passed away and she reached out to me when my mom recently passed away, which I really appreciated. I wrote her for New Year’s and congratulated her on Semmering (Shiffrin won three straight races in the Austrian resort last month) and I told her, “I’m looking forward to watching you break all the records.”

I’ll be watching from afar, though. This is her moment to savor, and I’ll be cheering from the sidelines, like all ski racing fans.

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