American skier Mikaela Shiffrin dominated downhill training in Norway on Wednesday ahead of what could become another record-breaking weekend.
Shiffrin is aiming for her 86th career World Cup victory to match the all-time mark set by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark in the 1970s and 80s.
Shiffrin is expected to have three chances this weekend, starting with a super-G on Friday, followed by a downhill the next day and another super-G on Sunday.
The races in Kvitfjell, the resort that hosted the Alpine skiing events at the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, mark Shiffrin’s return to World Cup racing after nearly five weeks. She sat out speed races in Switzerland last weekend, which were the first World Cup events after the world championships in France.
Shiffrin won gold in giant slalom and silver in both super-G and slalom at the worlds in February, but those results don't count towards the World Cup.
While the downhill is her weakest event — with three career wins from 19 starts — Shiffrin did post the fastest time by far in Wednesday’s first training on the Olympiabakken course. She led Norwegian skier Kajsa Vickhoff Lie by more than half a second, while only two more racers finished within a second of the American’s time.
Olympic champion Corinne Suter was 1.20 seconds behind, World Cup downhill leader Sofia Goggia finished 1.50 back, and world champion Jasmine Flury of Switzerland trailed Shiffrin by 2.78.
A second downhill training is scheduled for Thursday.
Apart from the 86-win record, Shiffrin has another target within reach this weekend. She can lock up the season-long World Cup overall title, generally regarded as Alpine skiing’s biggest prize.
Shiffrin holds a lead of 722 points over second-place Petra Vlhova. However, the 2021 overall champion from Slovakia will skip the races in Norway, which puts her out of contention with only six events left after this weekend. A race win is worth 100 points.
That leaves Lara Gut-Behrami as Shiffrin’s only competitor for the crystal globe trophy. The third-ranked Swiss skier, the overall champion in 2016, trails the American by 771 points.
If Shiffrin would increase the gap to 800 points or more on Friday, she would already be confirmed as the overall champion.
It would be Shiffrin’s fifth overall title, after winning it three years in a row from 2017-19, and again last year, and move her into outright second position on the all-time women's winners list, one short of the mark of six titles set by Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell in the 1970s and 80s.
Also, it would move Shiffrin past former teammate Lindsey Vonn for a second time this season. In January, Shiffrin broke Vonn’s women’s record of 82 career World Cup wins.
Eric Willemsen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/eWilmedia