Men’s alpine: Take Hirscher, Norwegians | VailDaily.com

Men’s alpine: Take Hirscher, Norwegians

From an American perspective, the good news is that we're going to do wonderfully with Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn, who pretty much compose the U.S. Women's Ski Team.

The bad news would be the U.S. Men's Ski Team. Yes, Ted Ligety finally got a podium in giant slalom in Garmisch, Germany — the first podium by the team all season — two weeks ago. Yes, Ted is the defending Olympic GS champion. Yes, we love and root for Ted Ligety, but look at this without red-white-and-blue glasses.

Ligety isn't anywhere close to the top of his game. Going into Sochi, Russia, in 2014, Ligety had three World Cup wins that season. Going into Pyeongchang, South Korea, he hasn't won since the beginning of the 2015-16 season.

And, unless Andrew Weibrecht pulls a super-G performance from a very dark place — which he has done twice — we're looking at a big goose egg for Team USA.

It's still going to be fascinating viewing starting with Saturday, Feb. 10's downhill.

The predictions:

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Downhill

Switzerland's Beat Feuz is the favorite, leading the downhill points. Winning in Wengen, Switzerland, and finishing second in Kitzbuehel, Austria, doesn't hurt either.

The Norwegians — Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud, in particular — are always in play. And, of course, it will be a national crisis of Austria if no one in red and white is on the podium — Vincent Kriechmayr, Matthias Mayer, Hannes Reichelt and Max Franz are the top suspects. Italy's Dominik Paris should not be left out of the mix.

The podium: 1. Jansrud; 2. Kriechmayr and 3. Paris.

Super-G

We introduce under appreciated Austrian skier No. 1. Before we introduce him, we acknowledge that under appreciated Austrian is an oxymoron. The Austrian Ski Team is the most hyped entity in the sport.

But, seriously, could we please give Hannes Reichelt some love? The Austrian media has made this veteran a whipping boy because the Austrians haven't obliterated the world sufficiently.

Reichelt, who never wins "the big one," has won in World Cup starts in his career in Wengen, Kitzbuehel and Garmisch, which are as big as they get on tour. He won a gold at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships here in super-G.

The only thing missing is the Olympics — he's missed the last two because of injuries.

The podium: 1. Reichelt; 2. Svindal; 3. Jansrud.

Giant slalom

Marcel Hirscher is under appreciated Austrian No. 2. He won his 55th World Cup two weeks ago in Garmisch. That only gave him more wins than Hermann Maier, whom the Austrians idolize.

Hirscher is the best male skier in the world right now. He's on his way to his seventh consecutive World Cup championship.

The only thing left on his resume is an Olympic gold. He'll get it in South Korea.

The podium: 1. Hirscher; 2. Matts Olsson, Sweden, and 3. Henrik Kristoffersen, Norway.

Slalom

I'll admit it. Slalom bores me to death. But both the women's and men's slaloms could be the two most anticipated events on the alpine program. The ladies have that Shiffrin girl who's pretty good.

On the men's side, this is a duel between Hirscher and Henrik Kristoffersen, who is the tech side of Norway's juggernaut. Kristoffersen is about the only form of Kryptonite known on Earth to Hirscher's Superman.

I'll still take Superman.

The podium: 1. Hirscher; 2. Kristoffersen and 3. Michael Matt, Austria.

Combined

I should have admitted before picking the 10th and final individual alpine event that predicting ski racing is a fool's errand. That's a way of saying when it comes to the men's combined, pick names out of the hat.

Ligety and Hirscher would be the shrewd picks because tech trumps speed in the combined. Ted hasn't competed in slalom this season, though, and this is little too much of an ask for Hirscher on the downhill side.

We're going with France for the top two steps.

The podium: 1. Alexis Pinturault; 2. Victor Muffat-Jeandet and 3. Jansrud.

Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, cfreud@vaildaily.com and @cfreud.

Predicted alpine medal count

Austria 3 2 3 — 7

Norway 2 2 3 — 7

USA 3 1 1 — 5

France 1 2 0 — 3

Italy 0 2 0 — 2

Switzerland 1 1 0 — 2

Sweden 0 1 0 — 1

Germany 0 0 1 — 1

Liechtenstein0 0 1 — 1

Slovakia 0 0 1 — 1