Peterson: Notes on GOATs
Mikaela Shiffrin isn’t so sure about this whole GOAT thing. She recently told an interviewer that she doesn’t consider herself the GOAT of alpine skiing and that she finds the moniker, um, “interesting.”
“The meaning behind it is insanely flattering, but all I can really see is like a picture of a baby goat screaming or like baby goats running around,” she said. “For me, that’s the image that pops up.”
For the rest of the world, the image that pops up when it comes to the greatest ski racer of all time is Mikaela Shiffrin.
Or simply Mikaela.
She’s achieved single-name status among the likes of Mia, Serena, Messi, Brady and Jordan.
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Just don’t ask her to explain what makes her transcendent, or why she’s just that much better than the best skiers in the world. She’s too humble, too modest, too self-effacing to waste considerable energy on the one thing that everyone else wants to talk about.
How does one turn into a GOAT? By not fixating on it. Shiffrin, like other greats, is process-focused, not results-oriented. She’s absolutely dedicated to her craft, the first on the mountain for training and the last off. She’s a gym rat who binges tape of training runs for breakfast, lunch and dinner, always focused on finding a faster line between two gates.
But maybe even more than some of the other GOATs in the club, she’s figured out that wins aren’t everything, that happiness isn’t tied to World Cup globes and Olympic medals.
Let the experts and historians decide what it all means — how to quantify her routine excellence. Shiffrin, it seems, is more focused on being a great human, a loving sister and daughter, and a selfless partner and teammate.
For all of the stories about her superhuman powers on skis, there are more about her legendary kindness, her willingness to connect with young fans and to help lift up her teammates, coaches and support staff, always without fanfare. Or to not take this thing called life too seriously.
Speaking of the greatest, if it’s not obvious, here’s how you end the debate when someone claims anything other than Vail as the best ski hill on the planet.
Just politely ask this question: Which mountain has produced the world’s greatest skiers?
And, yes, that’s skiers — plural. You don’t arrive at Shiffrin without first bringing up Lindsey Vonn, the toughest to ever do it, and the GOAT emeritus who set the standard for Shiffrin to chase. Before Shiffrin smashed Ingemar Stenmark’s 34-year-old World Cup wins record this year on the same track where she claimed her first win, it was Vonn who came the closest to Stenmark’s mark of 86, finishing just four wins shy.
That 71 of Vonn’s 82 World Cup wins across five disciplines came in the speed events, including 43 downhill wins, is insane.
That Stenmark picked up all of his 86 wins in the two tech disciplines of slalom and giant slalom, and wasn’t comfortable going above 75 mph on skis, well, ask yourself: What’s more impressive?
Vonn lived for tearing down a mountain at interstate speeds, and was the first to strap on men’s skis so she could go even faster. In retirement, just for fun, she took on the challenge of being the first woman to ski the legendary Hahnenkamm — the world’s gnarliest downhill track — in the dark, no less.
A ski town, first and always, Vail is where these two uniquely talented skiers grew from young prodigies in the local ski club into Olympic champions and World Cup overall winners.
This is where GOATs grow up.
“We’re somewhat unique here because unlike most of the other ski places in Colorado that were mining or ranching towns, we’re a ski town,” Pete Seibert Jr., the son of Vail’s founder, told the Vail Daily back in November. “That’s what we started as and that’s what we’ve been. And I think in the early years there was always some question as to authenticity, but now it’s been 60 years. This is who we are.”
And, today of all days, we get to celebrate that legacy by honoring the best to ever do it by giving Shiffrin the hero’s homecoming she deserves. We hope you enjoy this special commemorative edition of the Vail Daily, filled with fantastic writing, photography and design.
And we can’t wait for what’s next for Shiffrin, who, after she broke Stenmark’s record last month in Sweden, said this:
“I still had the same feeling at the start of this run that I have every race — I shouldn’t feel pressure, but somehow I feel something in my heartbeat. That’s the anticipation we want to feel as ski racers and I have it — it’s stronger than ever. I’m just getting started.”
Nate Peterson is the editor of the Vail Daily. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org