Mixed results for Americans in slalom
BEAVER CREEK – In what seemed like a battle of attrition, the Americans pulled out a podium and a top-20 finish in Sunday’s World Cup slalom race.A day before the slalom race began, the U.S. team had seven racers on the start list, but by the end of the Sunday’s second run, only two had finished the race.”Whenever there’s a podium, it’s a great win, but the team results today were a little bit disappointing,” said technical coach Mike Morin. “We have guys that are positioned to ski and place much better than they did today. It shouldn’t be a question of whether the guys qualify or not. They should be able to punch it in there in the first run.”Ted Ligety extended the team-podium streak to three days with this third-place finish (1 minute, 52.60 seconds), while Tom Rothrock put together two solid runs that were good enough for 16th place (1:54.42).”Unfortunately Bode (Miller) went out, and I felt like I had to carry the torch, and was glad to be able to carry it on for another podium,” Ligety said.Miller slipped off the course on his first run, but climbed back up the hill and finished in 1:17.70, far too long to qualify for a second run.After breaking his hand in Saturday’s fourth-place giant slalom performance, Erik Schlopy did not start Sunday’s race. James Cochran fell off the course and missed a gate on his first run, while Warner Nickerson’s finish of 1:07.78 wasn’t good enough to earn his a second run.And Chip Knight, despite a good first run, wasn’t able to finish his second run.
“Slalom has actually been a really strong even for us, but I’d say right now it’s not that we are learning or are off base, it’s just that we are just a little behind,” said head coach Phil McNichol. “We’ve had difficulty since August finding the right kind of training, however, Ted is really fast, and Bode has been inconsistent at best in slalom, but we know he can win.”StrategySome of the U.S. skiers said they prefer going into a run without knowing too much.”I normally don’t like to hear information on the course, and I did today, and it kind of screwed up my approach a bit (on the first run) when I heard my coaches saying hold back here,” Ligety said. “You have to ski your own race.”Knight went into his first run not paying too much attention to how the other racers fared.”I try not to watch too much,” Knight said. “I was going up the lift when I saw Rainer Schoenfelder was on the ground, and that’s all I saw.”Rothrock took note of the conditions on his first run, and amended his strategy.”I let the line go a little straighter,” Rothrock said. “I told them to sharpen my skis up a little, but it wasn’t as icy as the first run. I thought I had a clean run, but I could have been more aggressive. Still, I’m happy with the finish.”
And Nickerson, in his first World Cup race, didn’t hold anything back.”I went out of the gates as hard as a could, and hoped for the best,” he said.Nickerson ran into some trouble with the conditions, but finished the run.”It was a little rough up top at the first hairpin turn,” Warner said. “I tried to hold on because that was the course report: At all costs, keep going. I kept going and tried to make up time, and whenever you do that, you push the envelope as hard as you can. Usually, when it’s rough like that it doesn’t work out.”Even with his finish, Warner was ecstatic.”It was truly a dream just to get up there and race,” Warner said. “The way they take care of you as an athlete is unprecedented to anything I could have imagined.”Ligety split
Sunday’s results aside, who is faster in slalom, Miller or Ligety?”Head-to-head, Ted is faster,” Morin said. “In order for Bode to make his great wins (in other events), he’s had to sacrifice his slalom training. This year, Bode’s dedicated more time to slalom, and it’s going to pay off down the road.”While that road my not be a long one, Morin believes the road for Ligety is long and wide. Morin says he expects Ligety to be competitive in all four events in the future, and Ligety expressed his desire to do so, also.”I’m working on my GS a lot and want to hone that in and get it ready for future events, and would like to do other stuff than slalom,” Ligety said. “I’m looking forward to skiing some more speed in a couple of years. I’m going to Val d’Isere, France, to do the downhill and combined there, so I’m really looking forward to branching out in all events, although my mom doesn’t like me to.”Ligety and the rest of the U.S. team hope to keep earning podiums as they head over the Europe for a long stretch before the Olympics in February.Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or email@example.com.Vail, Colorado