Mikaela Shiffrin won her 82nd World Cup race in Slovenia over the weekend
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
A 27-year-old American is very likely to soon become the most decorated alpine skier of all time. Mikaela Shiffrin won her 82nd World Cup race on Sunday in Slovenia. And in doing so, she tied Lindsey Vonn's career record of 82 wins, the most for any woman ever on the World Cup circuit. Shiffrin's closing in on the men's record, as well. But in the middle of it all, she says she's fighting anxiety, grief and loss. Here's Shiffrin right after her 82nd win on Sunday.
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MIKAELA SHIFFRIN: I wish I could go back to a time when I could share it with more of the people that I love. And I have a feeling right now like something bad is going to happen because the last time I had momentum like this was the season before my nana died and my dad died.
FADEL: Reporter John Henderson is covering the events. Now he's in Austria, where more World Cup races are scheduled to take place today. He spoke with our co-host A. Martínez.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
All right, John. So 82 World Cup wins. Give us a sense of how big of a deal this is.
JOHN HENDERSON, BYLINE: So Shiffrin is 27. Lindsey Vonn was 34 when she quit. So she's got seven years on her. Also, keep in mind, Shiffrin is only four away from the all-time record of Ingemar Stenmark's 86, so she'll soon top all the skiers in history. In addition, she's done this in all the disciplines - slalom, giant slalom, Super-G, downhill, parallel slalom, combined. Stenmark did all 86 of his wins in slalom and giant slalom.
MARTÍNEZ: And the thing about it, too, John, is that, I mean, at 27, that's the athletic prime for most athletes in most sports. So she's, I mean, right in the perfect time to be able to attain these records and possibly break them. What has she had to overcome to even get here, though?
HENDERSON: Well, it's - the big thing was three years ago, her father died. He died in a tragic home accident right in the middle of her season in February. He was her rock. Her mom was her coach, but her father was her confidant. Well, when he died, she flew back from Europe, and she fell apart. And then the second thing happened was last year at the Olympics. She had six races. She was favored in the slalom and a medal favorite in the giant slalom. She didn't win a single medal. She had three did-not-finishes. And she'd only had two others your entire career. So she had to overcome this horrible Olympics in front of the world. But this offseason, she had a complete attitude turnaround. She said, just because you fail doesn't mean you're a failure. So what she did - she stopped worrying about winning and started focusing just on her technique and the race itself and the tactics. And then once she stopped worrying about winning, she started to win again. And what's amazing is she's doing this now, winning all these races. And she said if she just thinks about winning at the start gate, she won't win.
MARTÍNEZ: Which, John, I guess, I mean, considering how close she is to all of these records, I mean, it should set her up for an easy, an easy next few months to to break them, right?
HENDERSON: Well, not really. I was Kranjska Gora to watch her tie Lindsey Vonn's record of 82 wins. And I had a chance to talk to her a little bit afterwards. Here's what she said.
SHIFFRIN: I feel quite nervous, which is actually not a good feeling. This stress that I have in my body right now is not very good, but my skiing was really strong.
MARTÍNEZ: You would think that someone that is so close to these amazing records would be more well-known, especially in America, because, as you know, John, America loves their sports winners.
HENDERSON: Skiers in Europe are rock stars. They're mobbed everywhere. Even with me, I was in Slovenia for the last three days. And even coming up to Austria, every time anybody saw me as an American or learned I was American, they asked me if I was here to see Mikaela Shiffrin. Everybody knows her. She was mobbed everywhere in Slovenia. So she's very well-known in Europe also because skiing is televised everywhere. It's not in America. In America, skiing comes around every four years for two weeks and then disappears. I think with this record, it's going to put her more in the public eye.
MARTÍNEZ: For NPR, that's reporter John Henderson. John, thanks.
HENDERSON: You bet. My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.