So is Mikaela Shiffrin the GOAT of skiing yet?
Mikaela Shiffrin is back stateside making the rounds of major media with “The Today Show” and “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.”
In a non-Olympic year, American media is getting a slight glimpse that Shiffrin’s pretty good at this skiing thing.
Seriously, this has become a running joke in our office: “Mikaela Shiffrin: Good at skiing,” has been the catch phrase here when I’m trying to describe her winning yet another race — 17 World Cups and twice at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
I really hesitate to pronounce something or someone the GOAT — greatest of all time. Historical perspective is important. Tom Brady is the GOAT quarterback of this era because the rules of the NFL have changed so much that comparisons with Johny Unitas, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana are impossible.
My bet is that Brady wouldn’t survive a season during the 1970s NFL the way quarterbacks could be hit during that era.
That said, 19 wins, including the championships, obliterated the record held by Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider (14 on the World Cup or 15 including a gold at worlds in Vail during the 1988-89 season). Shiffrin’s 2,204 points in a season are second only to Slovenia’s Tina Maze (2,414 in 2012-13).
Shiffrin had quite a spread in her 2018-19 victories. Including worlds, she won four super-Gs, nine slaloms, four giant slalom races and two parallel slaloms.
Yes, 2018-19 was tech-heavy for Shiffrin — she is a tech skier. But when one starts to look at the epic seasons of those who went before her, Shiffrin’s four speed wins really stand out.
Lindsey Vonn won 12 times in 2010 (including downhill at the Olympics) and had another dozen in 2012. In 2010, Vonn won a combined 11 downhills and super-Gs with one super-combined victory. In 2012, Vonn’s best season with 1,980 points, she won five downhills, four super-Gs, two giant slaloms and a super combined.
Schneider’s 15 in 1988-89 came by way of GS and slalom domination with one combined win.
Maze is really the only one who comes close to Shiffrin. In her 2012-13 season, the Slovenian started all 35 World Cup races in racking up a record 2,414 points and won 12 times, including a GS gold in worlds.
Maze won in all five disciplines — there was no parallel slalom back then — in a season with one win each in downhill and super-G, two super combineds, six giant slaloms and two slaloms.
Shiffrin crushes Maze in the win total, but Maze beats Mikaela on versatility and points. Now, it’s worth noting that Maze specifically told Shiffrin that starting every World Cup race and setting the points record really took a toll on her and sapped her of her love of the sport that season.
Shiffrin heeded Maze’s advice and tailored her schedule for 2018-19 accordingly and still put up 19 wins, 28 top-five finishes in 29 starts and top-10 results in every start. So perhaps Mikaela gets points for learning from history.
I call it a tie for greatest season ever between the two. If you had to make me pick Shiffrin is No. 1 and Maze 1A.
Greatest of all time?
I see you commenting on Facebook. The way Shiffrin is going with 60 wins, she’s going to blow by Lindsey Vonn (82) and Ingemar Stenmark (86) in two or three seasons.
I hope so, but just remember, we were having the same conversation about Vonn and Stenmark for many years. Vonn was at 59 wins — and cruising to surpassing Stenmark — during the middle of the 2013 season when her knee exploded.
To her credit, Vonn returned and won 23 more times, even though she just was never the same dominant racer. Just as recently as last summer, we were charting a course for Vonn to win five races in 2018-19, starting with a win or two at Lake Louise, Alberta, to pass Stenmark.
Vonn never got to Lake Louise as she suffered another injury and when she returned, she was a shell of herself. Again, let us note that being a shell of Lindsey Vonn is still better than most, winning bronze in the worlds downhill.
Standard disclaimer: I was rooting for Vonn to break the record. I am rooting for Shiffrin to do the same. If you want me to buy a lucky rabbit’s foot to guard over any misfortune befalling Shiffrin, I will do so.
What makes what Shiffrin did this year, and what Vonn did in seasons past, so amazing is that they are/were dominating in a sport where the end can come very quickly.
In the meantime, Mikaela, have a great summer. After your media rounds, take some well-deserved time off. Soelden, Austria, is just seven months away.
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