Sunday’s World Cup wasn’t a race; it was a clinic
December 8, 2013
Ted Ligety took two runs, and everyone else was racing for second.
So much for the rule changes on giant-slalom skis making racers slower. They ain't slowing Ligety down.
We are watching a premiere athlete in the prime of his career, and it is something to behold. His official nickname is Ted Shred. That's perfectly nice. He, indeed, shreds, and Shread is the brand of his head gear.
Better would be Teddy Ballgame, like the Splendid Splinter, Ted Williams. Ligety is the definition of clutch. He gets about 2 minutes, 40 seconds during the course of one year, which has 525,600 minutes, to win a race on home snow.
We are watching a premiere athlete in the prime of his career, and it is something to behold.
That's not pressure, just an opportunity to crush it, which he does.
And it's not like he only does this here. This is the same guy who shocked the world with Olympic gold in the combined in Torino, Italy, in 2006 when he was 22. When it's time for the World Championships, he's won back-to-back gold in GS in 2011 and 2013. And this past year, for good measure, he also won the super-G and the combined at Schladming, Austria.
The only thing missing from the resume is the GS gold at the Olympics. He was a DNF in 2006 and ninth in 2010. Go get it in Sochi, Ligety.
The state of the state
And this brings us to Bode Miller. His finish Sunday is why we wrote in this space this past week that you never write off his Bode-ness. As is magnificently documented in Melanie Wong's feature in this edition, the guy does not conform to time and space as we know it.
He had a small miscue on Harrier in Saturday's super-G, otherwise he could well have been on that podium. Miller's going to make some noise this year.
What the U.S. men do not have is true downhiller, like in ye olden days, with Daron Rahlves. Again Miller may pop in there, but Steve Nyman, once thought to be "next," has been beset by injuries. He did get his second downhill win this past year in Val Gardena, Italy, but he's getting on in age (31).
Same goes for Andrew Weibrecht, the 2010 bronze medalist in super-G. He's younger, 27, but here's some interesting trivia. How many World Cup top-10 finishes does he have? Two — both 10th places at Beaver Creek in 2007 and 2011.
I root for both of these guys, but a change in career trajectory at this point would be stunning.
Ergo, let's go, Travis Gagnon. That said, it may not be this year.
The women's picture is a bit brighter this weekend. Lindsey Vonn finishing 41st in Friday's downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta, made a lot of us gulp, thinking, "Omigosh, she's done." Vonn's was 10th in Saturday's downhill and fifth in Sunday's super-G, and we may exhale.
We expect so much of Lindsey that we just assumed she would stomp Lake Louise, but she's trending fine. We knock wood every time we type it — we hope her right knee holds up. If so, that she's winning races soon.
As for the rest of the speedsters, we'll see. Leanne Smith was sixth in Sunday's super-G up north. We're still waiting to hear from Stacey Cook, Laurenne Ross and Julia Mancuso.
Having the pressure of home speed events and christening a new course could explain this past week's performance. On the other hand, the aforementioned trio didn't light it up at Lake Louise. The jury is still out.
And, yes, Mikaela Shiffrin might turn into a superb tech skier yet. Every one of her starts is appointment television.
There are tons of story lines as the Americans head to Europe.
Beaver Creek 2015
This is going to be fun. The Americans will have a much more notable presence than in the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships, but who will be the internationals to watch?
You gotta believe that Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal loves this place. Austria's Hannes Reichelt is on auto-pilot in Beaver Creek. On the ladies' side, it's not hard to see the likes of Lara Gut, Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Tina Maze, Tina Weirather and Anna Fenninger making some noise.
The thing to remember is that there will be a surprise, someone you've never heard of. Please name the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships women's slalom winner. (Work with me here. You can win some bar bets.)
Zali Stegall of Australia.
She did have a bronze in the 1998 Olympics in slalom, but no one in the world had her winning in 1999. This, of course, led to one of the best Vail Daily headlines ever: "Zali: Australian for gold."
Meanwhile, Ligety remains English for gold.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934 and email@example.com.