Mikaela Shiffrin, not Lindsey Vonn, is the story
But we'll talk about both anyway
February 5, 2019
Hey, people, the story’s over here.
A quick google on Tuesday morning of “Mikaela Shiffrin” yielded the following:
• “Lindsey Vonn crashes; Mikaela Shiffrin wins at world championships,” — Denver Post.
• “Lindsey Vonn crashes out of penultimate race at world championships,” — Washington Post
• “Mistakes never freak out Shiffrin, Miller says,” — Reuters.
Give The Washington Post credit for using penultimate — awesome — in a headline and Bode Miller more credit for actually analyzing a skiing trend but you’re missing the story, folks.
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We respect the heck out of Lindsey and think she’s the GOAT — for now — but Mikaela winning super-G on skiing’s biggest stage is a moment that could well alter the course of Alpine skiing history.
It’s like the time that Vonn won giant slalom at worlds. Oh, wait, Vonn never did that. That is not a slight to Vonn, but a measure of how good Shiffrin is now. Already dominant in tech — she leads the World Cup in both giant slalom and slalom — Shiffrin’s won every super-G she’s started in 2018-19. Despite not clicking in for the Garmisch, Germany, super-G, she still leads the World Cup in that discipline, too.
Be it fair or unfair, some races are more equal than others, and Olympics and Worlds are really, really more equal.
History in the making?
In the immortal words of Dennis Hopper, “Pop quiz, hot shot,” who are the only ski racers to win three races — excluding the newly created team event and paper combineds; we’ll explain shortly — at in one world championships in the modern era?
Austria’s Toni Sailer (four golds at 1956 Olympics in Cortina, Italy), France’s Jean-Claude Killy (four golds at the 1968 Olympics in Grenoble on home snow), Croatia’s Janica Kostelic (downhill, combined and slalom) in Bormio, Italy, in 2005, Sweden’s Anja Parson (super-G combined and downhill) in some place called Are in 2007, and Ted Ligety in 2015 in Schladming, Austria (super-G, super-combined and GS).
Let the record state the reason Sailer and Killy won four golds at the Olympics — from 1948-1980, the Olympics doubled as worlds — is that the combined was a “paper” race, assembled from results in the downhill, GS and slalom. (Talk about a combined.)
Only five people have won three races at Worlds. Only two women racers have done the triple, and Shiffrin’s win on Tuesday in super-G gives her a shot in following in those historic footsteps.
Shiffrin tweeted on Tuesday that she will not participate in Friday’s combined. While we would have liked her chances in that race — slalomers generally are the favorites in the discipline — you’ve got respect how Shiffrin has been managing the demands of the season.
Since she disclosed that she overdid the speed-tech combo between the ramp up to the Olympics and the games themselves last season, she has started in 24 events, including Tuesday. In those 24 starts — World Cup or championships — she’s won 16 times, finished in the top five seven times and her “worst” finish was ninth during the first of two Lake Louise, Alberta, downhills.
Who are we to disagree?
By winning in super-G, Shiffrin has made the historic triple a much more realistic prospect. The GS on Feb. 14 and the slalom on Feb. 16, and she is the favorite in both, await.
That’s the story, people.
OK, a little Vonn talk
But we are here to serve, so let’s talk a little about Vonn.
• For elite athletes, the end comes quickly. Hall of Fame quarterbacks like Peyton Manning and Brett Favre just fell off a cliff during their final seasons. (We keep waiting for the same for Tom Brady, but …). Ted Williams hit .254 and .316, the latter amazingly being paltry by his standards, during his final two seasons. Wayne Gretzky had all of nine goals during his final year with the Rangers in 1998-99. Michael Jordan wasn’t his Air-ness with the Washington Wizards.
And each of these greats, just like Vonn, earned the right to leave on their own terms. We all should be rooting for her to finish during Sunday’s downhill and take numerous curtain calls.
• Meanwhile, could we all take a chill pill on the hate-mongering from Vonn apparently not being a President Donald Trump fan. “Well I hope to represent the people of the United States, not the president,” Vonn said before the 2018 Olympics and some people were offended that she injected politics into the Olympics.
The winter and the summer games are inherently political, dating back nearly 100 years. Lindsey Vonn didn’t invent the concept and she doesn’t deserve the vitriol she’s receiving on social media, implying the way her career is ending is justice for expressing her political opinion.
• And for those saying that Vonn isn’t the GOAT, and that Shiffrin has already surpassed her? Nope. Does it look like Shiffrin is on pace to earn more World Cup wins and exceed her in other ways? Yes. However, Shiffrin actually has to do it, exceed Vonn’s 82 wins, and continue to shine in events like the world championships.
Thus, we all come back to the reason Shiffrin, not Vonn, was the story of the day on Tuesday.