Seeing ski history and repeating ski history
BEAVER CREEK — Yeah, she’s that good.
Slovenia’s Tina Maze is putting on a clinic at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek — silver in super-G, gold in downhill and now gold in the combined.
She could stop right now, and she’d be the unquestioned star of the Championships. She won’t.
As a side note, does she compete as an individual in today’s Nations Team Event in Vail just to make it fair for the rest of the world? (She is not racing today.) Seriously, with no disrespect intended to any racer of any nationality, much less to any Slovenian competing at Worlds, but I feel like changing Slovenia in our medal box to Maze.
In an era of increasing specialization, as noted by Shauna Farnell in Monday’s edition of the Vail Daily, Maze is the exception to the rule.
The stunning thing is that, despite all the accolades she’s picking up in Beaver Creek, this is not her best season to date.
That would still be 2012-13, when Maze racked up 2,414 points, a record that is likely safe for a good long while. Hermann Maier’s in second place with 2,000 points in the 1999-2000 season.
Not only did she break the record of a skiing god by more than 20 percent, but she won 11 times on the World Cup tour, and three more medals at Worlds in Schladming, Austria — gold in super-G and silvers in combined and GS.
What makes what Maze’s doing all the more remarkable is the condensed schedule of the Championships. She has medals in three different disciplines in seven days with training in between, and now she gets two days to switch up and turn to GS and slalom by Thursday and Saturday.
On the regular World Cup, she would get an entire week to prepare for two races on one side or the other of the alpine spectrum — speed or tech.
Lasse Kjus had golds in super-G and the GS and silvers in downhill, combined and slalom. It was an unreachable mark. But then again, so was Maier’s 2,000 points.
Go, Tina, go.
The Alpine Republic
While the U.S. Ski Team is doing just fine with regard to medal count, Austria is back in all its glory as the preeminent power in ski racing. Ironically, I think we saw it most on the day red, white and red, aka the Alpine Republic, gasp, didn’t win a gold.
Austria went 2-3-5-6. Perhaps most impressive was Anna Fenninger’s performance in fourth. Nicole Hosp and Michaela Kirchgasser are combined specialists. That in itself is a statement that a national ski team has combined specialists, while most nations are scrounging around their rosters, asking athletes, “You want to do this?”
For Fenninger, though, her first podium of any kind came at Worlds combined in 2011, slalom is not her thing.
The Austrians have three golds, two silvers and a bronze, and we’re not to the meat of their skills — i.e. Marcel Hirscher in the giant slalom and slalom. Those are two medals waiting to happen, and Austrian women’s tech should also make itself/herself felt.
The Austrians took it personally getting out-gold-medaled in Schladming in 2013, and they’re returning the favor.
Speaking of the allegedly nefarious Austrians, we go back to the men’s combined.
The podium on Sunday was Marcel Hirscher, Kjetil Jansrud and Ted Ligety. That wouldn’t have been an outlandish one had you not seen the actual race.
It’s funny how that worked. Though the conditions were less than ideal for the slalom portion, once can’t really argue about that podium. Those are the nos. 1 and 2 skiers in the world and the defending combined champion.
What I don’t buy are the conspiracy theories that Hirscher and the Austrian Ski Team used undue influence to have Czech skier Ondrej Bank disqualified.
Bank suffered a terrible crash during the downhill portion of the combined. He did, in fact, cross the finish line and was initially included in the results of the downhill. Upon further review, Bank missed the final gate, likely unconsciously going around it by hitting the safety fencing and then sliding down to the finish line.
Even if he hadn’t missed the gate, he would have been disqualified because his skis popped off — a good thing for safety. A racer can’t cross the line without his or her skis.
Disqualification was merited. What’s more, had there been a dispute about disqualification, it’s not like Bank was in any condition to race the second run of Sunday’s race.
With Bank out, Hirscher moved from 31st to 30th in the downhill standings and got the first slalom run on a firm course and ended up winning the combined.
This was not “evil” Austria manipulating the system for its gain. Was it a stroke of good luck? Absolutely. You need luck in ski racing — that’s not breaking news. This was a gift, but Hirscher and Ligety used it, putting down good runs on what became a mess of a course.
Yes, the Austrians are the “evil empire” of alpine ski racing because they win so much, but the DQ was a cut and dried issue.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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Jeff Shiffrin, with his wife, Eileen, made the Vail area their home decades ago, and together raised Mikaela and Taylor Shiffrin, who was a member of the two-time NCAA Champion University of Denver Ski Team.