Mikaela Shiffrin aims for another slice of history in return to Lake Louise
American star looking to sit alone in 2nd on all-time women's World Cup wins list
Mikaela Shiffrin's alpine dominance is no secret, but her success in Lake Louise still manages to surprise.
Shiffrin's most recent slalom gold in Killington, Vt., was her 62nd career World Cup victory and moved the 24-year-old American into a tie for second on the all-time women's list. The recently retired Lindsey Vonn leads with 82 career wins.
The two American stars earned their victories in different ways. Vonn developed into a jack of all trades; Shiffrin is mostly a master of one.
Of Vonn's gold medals, 43 came in downhill, while another 28 were super-G. She also added five super combined titles, four giant slalom victories and two slalom wins. Some clear specialties, but also a diverse portfolio.
For Shiffrin, 42 of her 62 World Cup wins are in slalom. Giant slalom and parallel slalom have provided the Vail, Colo., native another 15 wins, leaving just five other titles spread between combined, downhill and super-G. That's pure dominance.
The opposing strengths of Vonn and Shiffrin likely helped buoy each of their career totals — they competed against each other on many occasions, but never truly head-to-head. Downhill and super-G are straight speed events while slalom rewards technical ability and turns.
Vonn won a record 18 World Cup races at Lake Louise, 14 of which were in downhill.
But with Vonn's retirement, Shiffrin is now emerging as the leading threat to fill that massive void — a dangerous proposition for other skiers that began in 2017 in Lake Louise when Shiffrin won her first career downhill gold almost a full second ahead of the ninth-place Vonn.
In 2018, Shiffrin claimed another first at Lake Louise: super-G gold. Vonn missed that race amid her injury-filled final season.
WATCH | Shiffrin picks up win on home soil:
Shiffrin again claimed super-G gold the following weekend in St. Moritz, Switzerland, and added her third at a later World Cup stop in Italy. She capped her super-G breakout season with gold at the world championship, too.
There are no more first victories for Shiffrin to claim when the women's World Cup returns to Lake Louise on Friday for the third stop of the season.
CBCSports.ca will have live coverage of the downhill runs on Friday and Saturday at 2:30 p.m. ET. The super-G race begins Sunday at 1 p.m.
Tune into Road to the Olympic Games, our weekly program spotlighting high-performance athletes from around the world, on Saturday (1 p.m. and 5 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.) for more coverage.
WATCH | Shiffrin approaching Vonn and Stenmark's Records:
Shiffrin can snag sole ownership of second on the all-time wins list for women at Lake Louise, leaving her trailing only Vonn. Another gold would push her out of the tie with Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proell, who retired in 1980.
The all-time wins leader for any gender is Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark, who took 86 World Cup titles.
Shiffrin seems a good bet to topple that mark, perhaps even by next season. Wins at Lake Louise, featuring two races that haven't necessarily been her specialty, would be a large step toward that lofty goal.
Trio of Canadians searching for podium
In 2018, Canada's Valerie Grenier missed the super-G podium by five one hundredths of a second.
And while Grenier won't return to Alberta for a repeat performance, three more Canadian women will bid for the podium in Lake Louise.
Roni Remme, the 23-year-old Collingwood, Ont., native, leads the pack. Remme did not start the first downhill training session, but posted the best results in the event on home snow last year in 35th and 36th.
Remme reached her first podium in Switzerland last February when she snagged silver in the combined event, and is considered a future star on the Canadian squad. She enjoyed a seventh-place finish in her slalom season debut in Killington last weekend.
WATCH | Remme discusses potential for success:
Marie-Michele Gagnon, 30, of Lac-Etchemin, Que., was the top Canadian finisher in 20th in last year's super-G. She placed 40th in each of the downhill runs.
The final Canadian competitor, Toronto's Candace Crawford, hasn't placed better than ninth in a World Cup dating back to her 2014 debut.
Remme and Gagnon have stood on the World Cup podium in alpine combined. That event is a slalom race and a downhill race with the fastest aggregate time of the two determining the winner.
The world governing body of skiing considered phasing combined out.
Combined remains on the program, however, of both the 2022 Olympic Games in Beijing and the 2021 world championships in Cortina, Italy.
That's good for Remme, Gagnon and, when she's healthy again, Grenier.
The trio embraces the challenge of skiing fast in both slalom and downhill to contend in alpine combined.
"It favours a skier that can kind of do it all," Remme said. "Canadians try to pride ourselves on that. We don't want to specialize. We want to keep pushing where ever we can."
Schmidhofer returns to site of greatest success
Austria's Nicole Schmidhofer dominated at last year's event as she took top spot in both downhill races.
Schmidhofer, then, poses the biggest threat to Shiffrin after winning her first three career World Cup events last season. The 18-year-old Austrian added a super-G gold later on in the season too, just for good measure.
The young star left Shiffrin in her tracks in downhill at Lake Louise, clocking in over a second ahead of Shiffrin in the first run before the American slightly closed the gap in the second.
In the first training run this season, Shiffrin placed over half a second ahead of Schmidhofer. But Alice McKennis, an American, and Kajsa Vickhoff Lie, a Norwegian, tied for the fastest time, albeit at one minute, 54.52 seconds, over six ticks behind Schmidhofer's wins last season.
Switzerland's Michele Gisin, who landed two podiums at Lake Louise last season, also looms as a threat. The 19-year-old has never won a World Cup title, but did take gold in the combined event at the 2018 Olympics.
With files from The Canadian Press