THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
They say records are made to be broken, even the ones that seem so distant that it would take an exceptional talent to rise above the rest of a field that is so competitive and a sport that is extremely perilous.
Last week at the Alpine Skiing World Championships that exceptional talent came to the fore once more and broke a record that was shared with two other great athletes. Mikaela Shiffrin won her sixth world title and ninth career world medal to become the most decorated US skier when she won gold in the Alpine Combined by just 0.86 of a second ahead of Petra Vlhova from Slovakia, with Swiss racer Michelle Gisin back in bronze medal position. The Combined is an event which adds times from super giant slalom (super-G) and slalom runs. Before winning gold at the event held at Italy’s Cortina d’Ampezzo, Shiffrin was tied with fellow American Ted Ligety on five world titles. Now she has passed the legendary Lindsey Vonn for the most medals, this after tying her total of eight just the week before by claiming a bronze in the super-G. What makes all this more remarkable is that this was her first full race in more than a year.
After taking a prolonged absence from the sport due to the sudden death of her father in February 2020, Shiffrin now 25, was competing in Italy after just a short week of training before grabbing her super-G skis. Her father, Jeff, died at home after an accident that led to a fatal head injury. Shiffrin was with her mother, away competing in Europe, which left her “heartbroken beyond comprehension”. Jeff was a lifelong skier but did not like the spotlight on him and let his wife Eileen “do their routine” with their champion daughter. Then when she was due to return for the start of the season in October, Shiffrin had to pull out due to a back injury: “After tweaking my back last week, I have been advised to sit Soelden (Sweden) out to let my back heal so I can race the rest of the season,” she posted on her Instagram account.
“When I was a little girl, and I wanted to be the best in the world, I wrote in my diary ‘I want to be the best skier in the world’. I’ve done some things nobody’s done before, for sure. I’ve always been trying to just push the limit, push my own limit first, then trying to push the limit in the sport. I feel like, on my really good days, I’m doing that,” Shiffrin said, after realising her diary dreams. She was racing the combined for the first time at a world championship and was behind after the first run. The Italian, in front of her home crowd, was leading by .06, but fell at the third gate on her second run. Shiffrin then set a target that her rival Vlhova and Gisin could not beat. Gisin was full of praise, “Mikaela showed us how it’s done. I couldn’t hold up to her quite yet.”
Shiffrin was not finished yet, and after the gold and bronze already in her bag, added two more medals in Cortina. The personal tally of four is her single best championship total. A silver in the Giant Slalom, just .02 sec. off another gold, was backed up by a bronze in the slalom, arguably her favourite event in which she had won four consecutive world titles. After the first run she was outside the medal placings, but a strong second descent led to another medal.
“I wouldn’t want to just be the next Lindsey Vonn because otherwise then I’m just copying someone and that’s as far as I’m ever going to get. I want to try and get farther than anybody’s ever gotten.” She said after breaking the record. With the Olympics in Beijing this time next year, there will be more records to be broken for this star who will be raising the bar for the next generation to aspire to.
It is always hard to draw comparisons between teams and players when they play in different eras, but one constant is that of LeBron James and Michael Jordan in the NBA. They are without question two of the most dominant players to have ever played in baseball. You will of course have your own personal favourites to insert here, but as icons and men of influence, it’s hard to see past these two. After all, who else has shared star billing alongside Bugs Bunny in a feature film?
Last Thursday the Lakers man went into third place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Surpassing 35,000 career points, he will now begin his chase of the top two. One could be achievable very soon, and if James keeps up his sensational run the leader will be caught within three seasons. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar leads the way with 38,387 points, then Karl Malone sits second with 36,928.
“For me to be linked with some of the greatest to have played this game is an honour. I’ve always just wanted to go out there and play the game the right way, inspire my teammates, inspire people that watch me and just try and be as good as I can be every single night and not really put a ceiling on my ability or put a ceiling on what I can do,” LeBron told the press after the game against the Brooklyn Nets. Averaging 27 points per game through his career he will reach Malone in roughly 70 games, with Abdul-Jabbar in touch another 50 after that. James is now also the only player in history to record 35,000 points, 9,000 rebounds and 9,000 assists.
Oh, and in case you were wondering. Michael Jordan is fifth on the list all-time with 32,292 points, with an average of 30 points a game. But who is comparing?