(CNN)She retired as the greatest female ski racer of all time, but Lindsey Vonn believes fellow American Mikaela Shiffrin is “in a league of her own” and will shatter all records as long as she stays healthy.
Vonn, who bowed out of the skiing four wins short of the all-time record, says Shiffrin is on course to eclipse even the record of 86 World Cup wins held by Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark.
And on Tuesday, she triumphed in a slalom knockout event under floodlights in Stockholm for her 14th World Cup victory this season — equaling the record of Swiss great Vreni Schneider in 1988-89 — to seal a sixth slalom crown in seven years.
“The only obstacle she has is staying healthy, she’s incredibly talented and is in a league or her own right now, especially in slalom,” Vonn, 34, told CNN World Sport’s Alex Thomas at the Laureus Sports Awards in Monaco Monday.
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Shiffrin now has 57 World Cup wins overall and is the runaway leader in the standings as she chases a third straight season overall title.
The two-time Olympic champion is now five wins adrift of Austrian Annemarie Moser-Proll in third on the women’s all-time list behind Vonn’s 82. She is also vying with Austrian Marcel Hirscher, who has 10 wins this season and 68 in total and is nearing a record eighth consecutive World Cup overall crown on the men’s circuit.
But Vonn, who was unable to defend her 2010 Olympic downhill title because of a serious knee injury four years later, said fitness could be the deciding factor in Shiffrin’s career.
“That’s the difficult part about ski racing — like myself, Ted Ligety and so many others have seen, is that you get injured once and it changes the entire narrative,” said Vonn, who retired after succumbing to the debilitating effect of various injuries during a glittering 19-year career.
“I hope she stays healthy and breaks all the records. I love to see an American on the top.”
Shiffrin’s remarkable slalom world title in Sweden came despite a chest cold that had her coughing so much her mother Eileen — her long-time coach and mentor — questioned whether she should put herself through it.
But Shiffrin dug deep, and climbed from third after the first run to first after a trademark second-run charge, collapsing breathless in the finish area. She also won the super-G world title earlier in the event and took bronze in the giant slalom, in which she is the Olympic champion.
Shiffrin opted not to race in the downhill, which brought down the curtain on Vonn’s career after she crashed out of the super-G. Her bronze medal in the downhill made her the oldest woman to secure a medal at a world championships and the first female racer to win a medal at six world championships.
Vonn is unclear exactly what the future might hold for her, although she suggested to CNN’s Christina Macfarlane in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy in January there might be a movie career in the offing through her friendship with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
She said in Monaco: “I’m going to be doing a ton of workouts and I’ve got a lot of projects stacking up.
“Hopefully, my fans will stay with me for the adventure. I don’t entirely know what’s going to happen. I know I’m going to work hard and hopefully conquer another aspect of life.”