Making the picks for the men at Worlds
This is really stupid.
(By the way, they teach you in journalism school that your lead should bring the reader into the story, so, perhaps, this wasn’t my best opening to a story.)
Really, the following is a stupid idea, hopelessly misguided, genuine folly.
Yes, these are my predictions for the men at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
Seriously don’t try this at home.
Norway’s Kjetil Jansrud is the favorite here, according to the World Cup points, and the fact that he’s 2-for-4 in the discipline this year with a second-place finish at Beaver Creek in December.
I go with Hannes Reichelt, of Austria, who’s third in the points behind Jansrud and Italy’s Dominik Paris. Some golfers have courses that suit them well, just like hitters have favorite ballparks in which to play.
Reichelt loves Beaver Creek and Birds of Prey. He’s won three super-Gs here and has 28 starts here. This course is in his wheelhouse.
Ted Ligety is the defending champ, but lightning in a bottle doesn’t strike twice. We’re also rooting for American Andrew Weibrecht, but he still has yet to podium in Word Cup race, and Worlds probably isn’t the time. (A reminder, neither the Olympics, where Weibrecht has two medals, or the Championships count toward World Cup points or finishes.)
Best prediction: This super-G will not end in a tie, as was the case in 1999 with Austria’s Hermann Maier and Norway’s Lasse Kjus.
Gold: Reichelt, Austria
Silver: Paris, Italy
Bronze: Jansrud, Norway
Downhill (Feb. 7)
OK, Jansrud is also the favorite here. He leads in the points in downhill, and is 3-for-5 so far this season. That Jansrud guy is pretty good, and this is why I get all cranky when fellow members of the media ask him if, “he’s stepping out of Aksel Lund Svindal’s shadow?”
Nothing against Svindal. He’s a great guy. He’s apparently trying to return for the Championships. Stay tuned. But Jansrud is the world’s best speed skier right now. He already has five wins this season. He’s busting out, and this will be his coronation.
Paris finishes second because he’s just on the podium all the time. Think I’m joking? With the exception of a bad weekend in Wengen, Switzerland, he’s finished fourth, third, fourth, fifth, third, second, first, third and second this season in speed events.
American Travis Ganong is about one year from being “The Man” in downhill. His coming-out party will be during the 2017 Worlds in St. Moritz, Switzerland. Steve Nyman is a trendy pick, and who are we to argue?
Gold: Jansrud, Norway
Silver: Paris, Italy
Bronze: Nyman, USA
Super-combined (Feb. 10)
This event could produce the “What the heck?” winner. This is an official category in the World Championships because there is always a winner who comes out of nowhere.
As an example, France’s Marion Rolland won the women’s downhill in 2013, and that’s her only win — World Cup and Championships. Australia’s Zali Steggall won the 1999 slalom here and we’re still recovering from the shock.
It’s not just that this is the combined, but that the course really doesn’t fit the usual suspects well. Ligety is the defending champ, but this combined is a downhill and a slalom, not a GS. Ted’s had quite an unproductive year in the slalom, and slalom wins combineds. Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, who is a slalom stud, has never looked comfortable here in speed. Same for Germany’s Felix Neureuther.
This really is anyone’s race, but go with Croatia’s Ivica Kostelic, especially if his father is the course-setter for the slalom. (That’s a little inside World Cup joke.)
Gold: Kostelic, Croatia
Silver: Carlo Janka, Switzerland
Bronze: Alexis Pinturault, France
Giant slalom (Feb. 13)
The GS is known as Ligety Day in Beaver Creek, but I can’t pull the trigger. I’m not hating on the Americans. (My women’s picks will be more red, white and blue.)
Not only has Hirscher gone 4-for-5 in GS races this season, but each of his four wins have been by more than a second. This is his year.
Hirscher has 460 of a possible 500 points in GS. Can you really bet against that?
Nope. I know Hirscher is seen as the “bad guy” here, but he’s the best tech skier of this era.
Gold: Hirscher, Austria
Silver: Ligety, USA
Bronze: Thomas Fanara, France
Slalom (Feb. 15)
During the announcement of the U.S. Ski Team for Worlds, Patrick Riml, director of USSA alpine, said that the Americans could be competitive in every event during the next two weeks.
With respect, this is the exception. This is a coin-flip between Hirscher and Neureuther. They’ve been battling each other all year.
I just flipped a coin.
Gold: Hirscher, Austria
Silver: Neureuther, Germany
Bronze: Alexander Khoroshilov, Russia