It’s been a very weird year since Worlds came
Happy first anniversary, everyone.
One year ago today, the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships at Beaver Creek opened in earnest with its first race, women’s super-G.
What is startling is how much the World Cup has changed in 365 days.
• Six of the 10 gold medalists in the individual events from 2015 Worlds are either injured or not racing this year.
• Norway won only one medal.
• And the host nation would be in world of hurt had the Championships in some alternative universe been held this year.
Here’s a look back at the winners and how it’s gone in the year since for them.
Podium: 1) Anna Fenninger, AUT; 2) Tina Maze, SLO and 3) Lindsey Vonn, USA.
This is the beginning of a major theme — thank the deity of your choosing that Worlds aren’t in even years. Fenninger, who was one of the stars of 2015, blew out her knee over the summer and hasn’t skied a lick this season. Maze is taking the year off, which, of course, she wouldn’t be doing during a Champs or Olympic year. We don’t know if she’s coming back to the tour — expect a summer announcement. We hope so, as she actually is one of the last all-around racers on the women’s side.
Meanwhile, though Americans were disappointed by Vonn “only” winning bronze at what we thought would be her coronation, she’s doing just fine.
In the last calendar year, she has 11 World Cup wins, boosting her career total to 75. That’s only 11 behind the all-time record of Ingemar Stenmark (86). It’s not hard to see that going down next season.
Podium: 1) Maze; 2) Fenninger and 3) Lara Gut, SUI.
Gut was a favorite coming into Worlds, having won both downhill and super-G at the test event here for Raptor in 2013. Like Vonn, it didn’t really bounce her way at Beaver Creek.
Gut’s start to 2015-16 was insane — five wins in 31 days. She has slipped from that start to merely excellent. Vonn and Gut are 1-2 in the overall standings and that should go down to World Cup Finals in March.
Podium: 1. Maze; 2) Nicole Hosp, AUT, and 3) Michaela Kirchgasser, AUT.
Maze’s on hiatus and Hosp retired. Kirchgasser’s best result since Worlds has been third in a combined in Val d’Isere, France in December.
Women’s giant slalom
Podium: 1) Fenninger; 2) Viktoria Rebensburg, GER, and 3) Jessica Lindell-Vikarby, NOR.
Rebensburg’s been quietly having a very good year. Not as flashy as Vonn (900 points) or Gut (855), Rebensburg is in third place for the overall globe with 680. She’s won two GS races this year and tied the all-time mark for wins in that discipline by a German woman with 10.
Podium: 1) Mikaela Shiffrin, USA; 2) Frida Hansdotter, SWE and 3) Sarka Strachova, CZE.
How terrible would it have been if the 2015 Worlds were in 2016, and Shiffrin were unable to compete? Ouch. Get well soon, kid.
Hansdotter has taken over for Shiffrin atop the slalom chase and Strachova is third. Our bet is that the local kid will reclaim her globe and Worlds gold in 2016-17.
Podium: 1) Hannes Reichelt, AUT; 2) Dustin Cook, CAN and 3) Afrien Theaux, FRA.
Even though he had won downhills in Kitzbuehel, Austria, in 2014, and Wengen, Switzerland, just before Worlds, Reichelt still had the “Can’t win the big one,” tag. (Kitzbuehel and Wengen are the two places a skier must win to be great.)
Reichelt finally struck gold at Worlds, which may have appeased the Austrian media, which makes the New York tabloids seem genteel. Since then, all he’s done is win at Garmisch, Germany, and Kvitfjell, Norway. That’s a resume, people.
Podium: 1) Patrick Kueng, SUI; 2) Travis Ganong, USA, and 3) Beat Feuz, SUI.
Ganong’s struggled a bit since what we thought would be a defining moment with silver. That said, he’s still just 27. A bit of a Worlds hangover is to be expected from a youngster, and there’s still more season to go.
What is noticeable here is the absence of Norwegians on the podium. Aksel Lund Svindal, Kjetil Jansrud and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde have been killing it in speed since. Yes, Svindal went out with an ACL at Kitzbuehel last month, but Norway has been an absolute force this season.
Podium: 1) Marcel Hirscher, AUT; 2) Ted Ligety, USA and 3) Kjetil Jansrud, NOR.
Still the wackiest race I’ve ever seen, with Hirscher and Ligety surging from 30th and 29th place after the downhill to the podium on a slalom course that turned into soup during an abnormally warm afternoon at Beaver Creek Mountain.
But if the combined is the way to find the best overall racer in the world, well, this race still got it right. Hirscher was leading the chase for his unprecedented fifth World Cup title before Svindal went down. Now his most realistic challenge is Jansrud. Hirscher, falling drones and all, will win his fifth overall globe and continue to be one of the more underappreciated skiers of this generation.
Men’s giant slalom
Podium: 1) Ligety; 2) Hirscher and 3) Alexis Pinturault, FRA.
If the Worlds were this year, the Americans would have been blanked in the gold-medal department. Ted went down with an ACL injury last week, the first major injury of his career.
Even without the injury, it’s been a weird year for Ligety. He won in Soelden, Austria, in the traditional season opener and was a shocking DNF here in GS, and really wasn’t on the radar in the discipline.
We’ll chalk this up to a lost year, and look forward to Shred’s return next winter.
Podium: 1) Jean-Baptiste Grange, FRA; 2) Fritz Dopfer, GER and 3) Felix Neureuther.
There’s always a surprise winner at Worlds and Grange was the one in 2015. The slalom specialist hasn’t finished better than seventh in World Cup event since Worlds.
This podium also illustrated how much has changed in a year. Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, fourth at the Worlds’ finale, has seven slalom wins since the Championships and has five of his last six starts in the discipline.