A competitor like Mikaela Shiffrin is why we watch sports activities

Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates after an alpine ski, women’s World Cup slalom, in Åre, Sweden, on March 11, 2023.

Mikaela Shiffrin celebrates after an alpine ski, ladies’s World Cup slalom, in Åre, Sweden, on March 11, 2023.
Picture: Alessandro Trovati (AP)

I do know I’m one of many few sports activities writers leaping to my keyboard to riff on Mikaela Shiffrin breaking the all-time file for wins — earning No. 87 in Åre, Sweden, and passing Ingemar Stenmark on Saturday — however I needed to situation this as a reminder that Olympic success is form of bullshit. The final picture the sports activities world had of Shiffrin was her sobbing after crashing her manner off of China’s rinky-dink, half-covered ski mountain on the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.

It’s an outlier, and a one-off. Her dominance resumed as quickly as she received again to programs and situations befitting World Cup snowboarding. But the informal fan isn’t locked into area of interest sports activities. Olympic medals had been ringz tradition earlier than we even knew ringz tradition existed. Take into consideration if gamers had been solely allowed to win championships each fourth yr. These different three don’t matter, as a result of this occasion is the one one which does.

The consultants stated Lionel Messi wanted a World Cup win to cement his standing because the GOAT, and we agreed as an alternative of appreciating the truth that he has sufficient awards and {hardware} to fill an condo constructing. In sports activities, the whole lot should be ranked, measured, and sorted in its correct place. The purpose of sports activities is competitors, and everyone seems to be both a winner or a loser.

If that’s all that issues, then why do we now have Corridor of Fames or All-NBA groups or All-Star video games with gamers who don’t have titles? The explanations for watching sports activities and taking part in them aren’t the identical. If the opponents had their manner, they’d beat the brakes off the opposition and the viewers could be disinterested by halftime.

The rationale we watch sports activities is to see who wins but additionally for the drama, the storylines, and the world-class athleticism. If it was solely concerning the end result, you’d simply await the ESPN app to inform you the ultimate. We need to take within the greatness, the awe-inspiring expertise. Zion Williamson dunks. Bo Jackson runs.

And Mikaela Shiffrin ripping up an alpine course.

An appreciation {of professional} winter athletes

The rationale I care about Shiffrin is as a result of my private favourite sport (exercise?) is snowboarding. Sitting on the carry and seeing somebody going mach 5 out and in of the bushes like a well-trained James Bond physique double is a lot enjoyable. I’ve hit tremendous excessive speeds in response to the app on my cellphone, however I’ve additionally ridden the runs that Shiffrin and Co. are straight-lining it down, and it’s no joke.

The identical factor for the folks on the X Video games. There’s zero manner of contextualizing how large these jumps are and the way steep the terrain is till you see it in individual. The psychological fortitude it takes to do the feats they do — inches away from hospital beds at each flip — is fucking badass. And that’s how I’d describe Shiffrin.

She’s a fucking badass. The fucking badass. She’s on the market competing towards solely herself. Only a few of her opponents are even shut.

So don’t let medalz tradition sway you as a result of she’s the winningest skier within the sport and can go down because the GOAT when she hangs up her ski boots.