Mikaela Shiffrin took gold yesterday in the Super-G at the Alpine World Championships yesterday in Sweden. Lindsey Vonn crashed out and DNF. If there’s a more dramatic metaphor of the changing of the guard at the top of U.S. Ski and Snowboard’s female ranks, I can’t think of it.
The 34-year-old has stayed in her sweet spot– the center of attention– the last few weeks after announcing she was “not done yet,” then wavering on that pledge, before finally announcing that her cumulative injuries have made it impossible for her to continue in the sport.
She plans to retire following the World Championships, but before she could she suffered a nasty fall in Tuesday’s Super-G race, her last in that category. Thankfully, it appears she hasn’t added another significant injury to what is already an unfortunately long list. It’s a list that now looks certain to keep her from becoming the winningest FIS World Cup skier of all time. She trails legendary Swede Ingemar Stenmark by a mere four race wins.
Shiffrin, on the other hand, quietly continues to hoard wins. She won this week’s Super-G victory at the World Championships by a razor slim margin. She told U.S. Ski and Snowboard:
“This is crazy,” a surprised Shiffrin said after winning her fourth career World Championships gold medal, just 0.02-seconds ahead of Italy’s Sofia Goggia in second, and 0.04-seconds ahead of Switzerland’s Corinne Suter in third. “It was a really tight race – seven-hundredths to fourth place, I mean, come, on.”
Shiffrin already ranks fifth all-time for wins, with 56. The next and only female skier ahead of her in the rankings, Annemarie Moser-Proell of Austria, recorded 62 wins. Her win on Tuesday was her 13th of the season, putting her only a single win behind the single-season record of 14, held by the Swiss skier Vreni Schneider.
As if to drive home the difference between the two skiers, U.S. Ski and Snowboard remarked to the Associated Press that “She’s going off the grid for a bit, wants to keep it private,” on Wednesday.
Lindsey Vonn was one of the most dominant forces in sport over her 18-year career. But the time has come, it seems, for the passing of the torch.