LONDON (Reuters) - Lindsey Vonn will end her career as the greatest Alpine ski racer of all time but might one day be usurped by fellow American Mikaela Shiffrin, according to Bode Miller.
Vonn is considering ending her career before next month’s world championships in Are, Sweden with a succession of knee injuries having taken a toll on the 34-year-old.
But even if the former Olympic downhill champion falls just short of Swedish slalom specialist Ingemar Stenmark’s long-standing record of 86 World Cup wins, former team mate Miller says she should be regarded as the best ever.
Vonn has 82 World Cup victories to her name.
“In my opinion she is at the very top. You can make a lot of different cases for a lot of different athletes and her case is strong,” four-time world champion Miller, who will be analyzing the Are championships for broadcaster Eurosport, said.
“She has a lot of check marks that put her at the very, very top. Stenmark lived in a different era, it wasn’t the modern era and he never had to deal with the things Lindsey had to deal with throughout her career.
“Even just the number of races he had in a season was different to Lindsey, so in my opinion she is at the top.”
Stenmark’s victories all came in slalom and giant slalom whereas Vonn, while a speed specialist, is one of six women to have won World Cup races in all five disciplines.
“Of course, she would like to win more races to objectively be the best in history, but there is a case to be made for it anyway,” Miller added. “Ingemar Stenmark raced 14 or 15 events a season and that’s nowhere near what she’s had.”
Shiffrin is predicted to be face of the world championships after a season of domination in the World Cup.
Last weekend she won the Cortina super-G shortly after Vonn failed to finish the race.
Still only 23, Shiffrin already has 54 World Cup wins, tying her in sixth place on the all-time list with Austrian great Hermann Maier. She has 11 wins this season alone.
“Mikaela has a great chance to get to the top, which will be frustrating to Lindsey I’m sure if she breaks the record,” Miller said. “Even if Lindsey doesn’t break the record then she will have no regrets. With Mikaela coming up it’s a bit of a Roger Federer/Pete Sampras-type scenario.”
Slalom specialist Shiffrin was tipped to win a stash of medals at last year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, but only managed one — in the giant slalom.
The three-time world champion will arrive in Sweden with gold medal hopes across all the disciplines but Miller, who also competed in downhill and slalom, said it was a tall order to bag multiple medals at a world championships.
“This isn’t swimming, this isn’t track and field — you are dealing with a lot of variables and a lot of small margins,” the 41-year-old said.
“A lot of times in ski racing it is not in your control and the ski race is literally taken out of your control by the variables. I lost a lot of races from variables I couldn’t control, but I also lost a lot of races from my own mistakes.
“It seems like Mikaela doesn’t lose a lot of races due to her own mistakes. She is in a really good place and in my opinion will come away from the world championships with a lot of medals, at least three.”
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge