By Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger
Vermont-schooled Mikaela Shiffrin began the latest World Cup season by skiing through a snowstorm on Killington Mountain to win the only U.S. stop on the international women’s racing circuit.
“I hope that everybody enjoyed watching,” the Alpine champion told a national television audience, “because that was about as much show as we have.”
If only. One case of Covid-19 and a wipeout of a 2022 Olympics later, Shiffrin has ended an especially tumultuous winter by snagging her fourth overall World Cup.
“This has been a roller-coaster season filled with many emotions,” tweeted the 27-year-old graduate of Burke Mountain Academy. “I’m not typically one for counting but that is a real dream come true,” she said of winning the overall circuit for the fourth time.
And a welcome reprieve from several nightmarish years. Shiffrin faced the death of her 65-year-old father in February 2020, followed by the start of the pandemic that March, a back injury that October and cancellation of the Killington World Cup that November.
Shiffrin returned to Vermont last Thanksgiving weekend to win at Killington, only to test positive for the coronavirus two days after Christmas and spark global headlines last month when she skied off course three times at the Beijing Olympics.
“Some days it doesn’t work out,” the two-time gold medalist went on to tell reporters. “It just happened to be at the races that most people watch every four years.”
As everyone else tuned into other things, Shiffrin went on to land on podium after podium on the World Cup circuit before winning its crystal globe trophy at the weekend finals in France.
“You know, really enjoy the good days,” she told reporters. “Today was a good day.”
Shiffrin snagged the women’s World Cup as her boyfriend, Norwegian Olympian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, scored the men’s downhill and super-G season titles. Her fourth overall victory — she previously won in 2017, 2018 and 2019 — ties her with American record holder Lindsey Vonn and puts her two titles behind six-time champion Annemarie Moser-Pröll of Austria.
“Obviously, the Olympics were some of my lowest moments in ski racing, and even in life,” Shiffrin told The New York Times. “But winning the overall title came into focus as a big goal. And sometimes the natural balance of life sways in different directions.”
Then again, Shiffrin has proved “as inspiring in defeat as she is in victory,” notes Rutland writer Peggy Shinn, who covered the skier’s Beijing stumbles for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee’s website, TeamUSA.org.
“She could have blown by reporters,” Shinn went on to write. “Instead, she spent 20 minutes with us — after talking to broadcasters and the wire services for even longer. … Perhaps showing us her human side is Shiffrin’s real superpower.”