Shiffrin is rarely slowed down by physical ailments. Vaughn constantly crashed into safety nets and broke bones.
Shiffrin is an introvert and sometimes doesn’t even wave his fist when he wins. Vaughn is outgoing and enjoys celebrating her many victories.
In many ways, the Americans, who now share a record of 82 World Championship wins, couldn’t be more different.
Other than that, they are remarkably similar.
Both Shiffrin and Vonn excelled in every discipline of alpine skiing at various points in their careers, winning races in slalom, giant slalom, super-G and downhill.
Both spent part of their childhood in Colorado and both were top skiers of their generation.
On Sunday, Shiffrin equaled Vaughn by winning the giant slalom and finishing in 82nd place.
Vonn retired four years ago when injuries cut short her attempt to break Ingemar Stenmark’s combined men’s and women’s record of 86 wins.
US women’s ski team head coach Paul Christophic coached both Vonn—at the end of her career—and Shiffrin.
“Both are extremely talented and extremely driven,” Christophic said. “Both are very focused on the process: how to prepare, how to prepare. No real compromise in checking all boxes to make sure everything is ready every day. So real professionals.
“I am incredibly lucky to have worked with two amazing athletes like them. Sometimes I have to pinch myself.”
Vaughn’s best competition was downhill, the discipline with the highest speeds and the greatest danger. Of her 82 victories, 43 were downhill and 28 were super-G, which is only slightly slower and more technical.
Vonn has also won four giant slaloms, two slaloms, and five combined races that combine slalom and downhill times.
Shiffrin’s best discipline is the slalom, the most technical competition in which the direction changes most quickly.
Shiffrin has won 51 slaloms, 17 giant slaloms, 5 super giants, 3 downhills, 1 combined and 5 parallels, in which riders simultaneously descend face to face down the same slope through separate gates.
OUT OF SLOPES
Both Vonn and Shiffrin have been involved in high-profile relationships.
Vonn was dating Tiger Woods when she broke Annemarie Moser-Pröll’s previous women’s record of 62 wins in 2015. Woods surprised her when he flew to the celebration in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, and showed up disguised as a mask.
Shiffrin and boyfriend Alexander Aamodt Kilde from Norway, who was the 2020 undisputed champion, are currently a powerful couple in the sport.
While Vaughn was 33 when she placed 82nd, Shiffrin is only 27.
Shiffrin competed in 233 World Cup races and Vonn started in 395 races.
Vonn and Shiffrin have each won four World Cup titles overall, which is considered the greatest prize in the skiing community, and Shiffrin is on track for his fifth title this season.
Marcel Hirscher holds the record with eight titles overall, while Moser-Pröll holds the women’s mark with six.
So will Shiffrin end his career as the greatest skier?
“It’s hard to say which is the best,” said Peter Gerdol, director of the Women’s World Championships. “Now we are talking about football, was Pele better than (Diego) Maradona or better than (Lionel) Messi. These are different situations, these are different periods, different conditions, everything is different. She is one of the greatest racers of all time, that’s for sure.”
Both Vonn and Shiffrin have each won three Olympic medals. Vonn finished her Olympic career with one gold and two bronzes, while Shiffrin has two golds and one silver. leave Beijing empty-handed last year in one of the most disappointing performances of her career.
Vonn and Shiffrin did compete against each other in some major races towards the end of Vonn’s career.
Shiffrin won silver in together at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. when Vonn was blown off course in the second run of her last Olympic race.
A month earlier in Cortina down the slope, Vaughn finished second and Shiffrin finished third, the only race the pair had ever made the podium together. It was on the same day that Julia Mancuso, another prominent American woman, retired; and the race was won by Sophia Goggia, who succeeded Vonn as the best downhill.
“It was like the paths of all generations had crossed,” Vonn recalls.
Then at the 2019 World Championships in Are, Sweden, Vaughn crashed when Shiffrin won super-G – although Vonn recovered and took the downhill bronze a few days later in the last race of her career.
HOW HIGH CAN SHIFFRIN GO?
It seems only a matter of time – possibly weeks – before Shiffrin surpasses Stenmark with the No. 87 win. So how many wins can she muster?
“The ceiling,” Christophic said, “is high.”
US Ski & Snowboard President and CEO Sophie Goldschmidt added, “I would say she has the potential to be America’s greatest female athlete ever. What a compliment that would be, and if it did, it would be very well deserved.”
AP Sports columnist Pat Graham of Denver contributed to this report.
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