Vail Daily Year in Review, Part 4: Shiffrin headlines the sports year of 2017
Editor’s note: This is the fourth part of a five-part series reviewing the biggest news in the Vail Valley in 2017. Find additional installments in the paper in coming days and at http://www.vaildaily.com.
In the world of sports, 2017 unquestionably belonged to Eagle-Vail’s Mikaela Shiffrin.
She clinched her first World Cup championship at the World Cup Finals in Aspen right after she turned 22. Her 2017 checklist included nine more World Cup wins, upping her total to 35.
For some fun trivia, Shiffrin already is second on the all-time American list of wins on the tour behind only Lindsey Vonn. Her giant-slalom win on Dec. 19 pushed her past none other than Bode Miller (33 career victories).
On a ho-hum level, Shiffrin three-peated as slalom champion at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in St. Moritz, Switzerland, in February. She also nabbed silver in GS at Worlds, which may be more impressive in the context of a greater theme of the year.
In 2017, Shiffrin broadened her scope of alpine disciplines. Yes, of course, she regained her slalom globe, but she also finished second in the giant-slalom points.
Before Worlds, she took fourth in the Cortina, Italy, super-G in January. After her stop in St. Moritz, Shiffrin added her first combined World Cup win in Crans-Montana, Switzerland.
And if she hadn’t put down enough of a marker that she can do speed events as well, she opened a can of “how do you do,” up in Lake Louise, Alberta, in early December, taking third in the season’s opening downhill, followed by a win in DH, and a fifth-place finish in super-G.
This is scary prospect for the rest of the women’s World Cup. With tech mastery unquestioned, Shiffrin’s ability to pick up points in all five World Cup disciplines signals the possibility of a long reign.
In the meantime, 2018 brings the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, and the possibility of three medals. Shiffrin is the defending slalom champion from 2014, while hardware in the GS and the combined is a distinct possibility.
Since most Americans only pay attention to skiing once every four years, it’s quite possible Mikaela Shiffrin could be a household name when we write a wrap of 2018.
Elsewhere in snowsports
• Vonn back from injuries — While it’s tempting to see the 2017-18 season as a symbolic passing of the torch from Lindsey Vonn to Shiffrin, it’s probably not a good idea to tell Vonn that.
Coming off a broken arm in training for the 2016-17 season, she only skied half the year and still finished second in the World Cup downhill points.
In only her second race back from that injury, she won a World Cup downhill on Jan. 21 in Garmisch, Germany.
Vonn’s return to Lake Louise did not go as planned — she had two DNFs at “Lake Lindsey,” where she has 18 career wins.
But writing Vonn off is useless. She took World Cup victory No. 78 in a super-G in Val d’Isere, France, on Dec. 16.
Like Shiffrin, Vonn has Pyeongchang squarely in her sites. After missing the 2014 Olympics, she clearly has eyes on adding to her medal collection, which includes downhill gold and super-G in bronze from 2010.
• Birds of Prey returns — After warm weather canceled the 2016 annual stop for the World Cup men in Beaver Creek, the gents returned Birds of Prey in December for a combination of something old and something new.
Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr continued the tradition of first-time World Cup winners in the super-G. He was the sixth racer to get his inaugural victory on this track with Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud and Austria’s Hannes Reichelt also on the podium.
In the downhill, Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal showed that he’s still got it, recording his sixth World Cup win here with Switzerland’s Beat Feuz and Germany’s Thomas Dressen in tow.
Six was also a theme in the GS as Marcel Hirscher won for the sixth time in Beaver Creek, which was a surprise to no one except Hirscher. (The Austrian is noted for deprecation of his abilities, despite having won six World Cup titles in a row.)
Also in the Birds of Prey giant slalom, local River Radamus got his first World Cup start. A dream scenario for a racer who grew up here, Radamus came within 2-tenths of a second of making the flip. Keep an eye on the youngster.
• Burton U.S. Open — The annual snowboarding comp served as a 2018 Olympic preview. Shaun White and Chloe Kim topped all comers in the halfpipe. Both will be among the favorites in South Korea.
Eagle’s Jake Pates made the men’s final, which was a precursor to his exploits later in the year when he won a Dew Tour event in Breckenridge in December. That victory all but assured him of an Olympic ticket.
In slopestyle at Burton, Anna Gasser took the top spot, starting her run of dominance in the discipline, while Mark McMorris won the men’s comp.
Other locals crushing it
• Josiah and Chris — Josiah Middaugh at the GoPro Games is not exactly a shock. He’s a regular at the June outdoors festival.
But on a road bike?
If it involves a bicycle, then Middaugh, Eagle County’s resident triathlete, can do it. He won the time trial up Vail Pass because he’s a human cyborg.
Back in the more familiar world of triathlons, Middaugh won the Xterra Pan-Am Series, including another crown at the Mountain Championship in Beaver Creek in July.
While Chris Del Bosco is very much into mountain biking, the ski cross racer wasn’t meant to be doing much of anything during the summer after knee surgery. However, Del Bosco was, indeed back on his bike in August and back on skis come December.
In the World Cup opener, Del Bosco notched his 10th career World Cup ski cross victory in his quest for his third appearance in the Olympics.
• Huskies cross-country dominates high school scene — There were plenty of good stories in 2017 from the high school ranks, but Battle Mountain girls cross-country topped them all.
Sure, the Huskies won their seventh straight regional title. And, yeah, they repeated as Class 4A state champions. Ho-hum.
Then the ladies went down to Arizona and won the Nike Cross Southwest Regional, beating everyone from Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. To put a cherry on top of the sundae that was their season, the Huskies finished third at Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon, in December.
Not too bad for seven ladies from an obscure mountain town.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.