Honor to be nominated: Locals get Ski Team nods
July 14, 2016
It's strange timing.
It's the middle of summer and out come the U.S. Ski Team nominations. Thus, we must have our obligatory "Game of Thrones" reference that winter is coming.
And when the snow flies — it's only a little more than two months to the Soelden, Austria, giant slaloms — we will be well represented.
Under the category of "No kidding, Sherlock," Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin are A-Team members. (Not hard calls there.)
The greater level of surprise and gratification are the selections of River Radamus, Florian Szwebel, Nina O'Brien and Nellie-Rose Talbot to the D Team, as well as Alex Leever to the National University Team.
Congratulations to the quintet above. Congratulations to the families who have been so invested in their sons and daughters to get to this point. Congratulations to organizations like Ski & Snowboard Club Vail, which have given Eagle County such a promising delegation.
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Meet the kids
• This is young master Radamus' second season on the team. He certainly distinguished himself in his first year with three gold medals at the Youth Olympic Games in Lillehammer, Norway. And, oh by the way, he's the junior national champion in the combined, one of three more medals he won in Idaho last spring.
• While Radamus right now seems to enjoy the super-G, GS and combined, Avon's Szwebel may be an up and coming downhiller. (The four local nominees for the D Team were born between 1997-99, so they are young ones and, at this stage, nothing is set in stone.) He was seventh in the FIS Junior World Ski Championships in the discipline in February in Sochi, Russia. Szwebel finished the Nor-Am season with three top-10s in Aspen in the DH. He also hit the podium in FIS races in super-G.
• Nina O'Brien was born in San Francisco, so she's obviously the stud of the group. (Stop that, Freud.) Seriously, she resides in Edwards and is at the Burke Mountain Academy in Vermont. Madame O'Brien was your 2015 GS national champ. That earned her a spot on the team for 2015-16, when she earned top 10s in all five disciplines (downhill, super-G, combined, GS and slalom) on the Nor-Am and FIS levels.
• Vail's Talbot bounced back from a tough Junior Worlds — three DNFs — to capture top 10s at nationals in Idaho in super-G and combined. (A reminder here — these kids are young and will have those ups and downs. Rose turns all of 17 next month.) Talbot also won Italian junior nationals in GS in January.
• Leever is the gray beard of the bunch at the ancient age of 21. The Vail Mountain School grad skis for the University of Denver, the defending NCAA champs.
The first thing that jumps out at you is that Bode Miller has an invite. Again, these are nominations and the official team will be announced during the fall. But that's intriguing, isn't it?
The last time we saw his Bodacious-ness, he was crashing during the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships. The official injury report was torn hamstring ligaments, but it seemed like he did a lot more.
Irony being very ironic, Miller spent the 2015-16 as commentator for the NBC networks. The guy who hates the media joins it? But then again, Miller is a walking contradiction.
He should be too old to come back — he turns 39 in October. One would think that Bode has done all there is to be done as a ski racer. Yet you never can count this guy out. He's been done like dinner and resurrected his career so many times.
Bode's made no announcement. Perhaps the U.S. Ski Team is leaving the proverbial door open? Stay tuned.
By the way, this might be good time to mention that Worlds are at St. Moritz, Switzerland, this year. Just putting that out there.
Ted and the gang
Other than Miller, there are no surprises on the A-Team. The gratifying new name is Steve Nyman. Off the A-team for the last few years because of injury and competitive struggles, he's back at fully funded status after last winter. That's deserved.
Andrew Weibrecht finally cracked the World Cup podium in super-G last year at Beaver Creek and later at Kitzbuehel, Austria. (Olympic medals — he has two — don't count as World Cup.) The Warhorse, if he can stay healthy, will be the team's leader in super-G
Travis Ganong notched his first downhill win in 2014-15 and podiumed up in Lake Louise, Alberta, last season. He still is building up his experience base, which is so crucial for downhillers.
The upcoming season should be a big one for Ted Ligety. He suffered an ACL injury last winter and, truth be told, wasn't skiing very well before that happened. With five Worlds golds, two more at the Olympics and 25 World Cup wins, his place in history is secure. But does Ligety, 32 in August, make a successful comeback? We're rooting for him unabashedly.
Lindsey and Mikaela
Health is the issue for both. Vonn's season ended with a left-knee injury. Shiffrin did her MCL mid-season and came back for three World Cup wins, nonetheless.
As we learned after her right-knee essentially exploded at 2013 Worlds, Vonn is always good to come back. She's won 17 World Cups and three globes since that nightmare. Already the women's career leader in wins with 76 wins, it's clear she's gunning for Ingemar Stenmark's mark of 86, the 2017 Worlds and the 2018 Olympics.
As for Shiffrin, she's the best in the world in slalom — she was fourth in the points last season, despite missing half the year, for crying out loud. On the to-do list is recapturing the slalom globe as well as defending her Worlds gold — she's going for her third straight.
The bigger question is does she expand her repertoire? She finished third in GS last year and made her first start in a World Cup super-G. The sky remains the limit for the 20-year-old.
Who steps up?
This is the question for the rest of the women's team. Julia Mancuso, 32, is coming off hip surgery. This is a big season for her.
There are a bunch of promising youngsters, particularly on the speed side — Stacey Cook, Alice McKennis, Laurenne Ross and Leanne Smith. The only problem is that they've been promising youngsters for a while now.
Two months to Soelden, people.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.
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