That was a pretty darn good weekend of ski racing | VailDaily.com

That was a pretty darn good weekend of ski racing

Austria's Bejamin Raich, left, reacts at the end of his second run in the Birds of Prey giant slalom after missing the podium by one spot as the winner Ted Ligety, right, approaches to shake his hand on Sunday at Beaver Creek.
Dominique Taylor | Special to the Daily |

BEAVER CREEK — OK, we started this column in between runs of Sunday’s giant slalom here at Talons, where the media is housed.

Ted Ligety wants to come in, but has his identification checked. It’s the appropriate security procedure, but still hilarious.

The notebook from this weekend from Birds of Prey and Lake Louise:

Displays of joy

• Switzerland’s Beat Feuz happily slumps down to the ground in the finish area after the board flashes that he’s on the podium in downhill. Feuz really thought he was done with ski racing after knee injuries.

• Steve Nyman beams after bronze in the downhill. We often view ski racing as glamorous, jetting from peak to peak. It’s actually tough, gritty stuff, when you can question you motivation for continuing.

• But the best was David Chodounsky in the GS on Sunday. He is 30 years old and was competing in only the second giant slalom of his World Cup career. He made the flip from bib No. 66. We saw what is likely to be the highlight of skiing life. That’s why we love this event.

American report card

Very good, considering that there was no Bode Miller. Yes, Miller’s 37. He’s ancient, etc. You can never count him out on this hill. He finished second in GS, we repeat, GS last year.

Nyman looks like he’s back in the downhill. Weibrecht finally broke into the points in that same race. That breaks him out of start positions in the 60s, just huge. The War Horse was also 10th in the super-G, his specialty.

Travis Ganong is starting to develop consistency in a very inconsistent discipline, the downhill. His fifth-place finish on Friday was his sixth-straight top 10 on the World Cup, dating back to last season.

And Ted is Ted.

Also, we heard the Americans had a pretty decent weekend up north.

Vonn

As much adulation as she receives in these pages and from just about every other media outlet, we really take Lindsey Vonn for granted.

Be honest, you were thinking that she might just return to Lake Louise and win her first race on Friday. (She finished eighth, the slacker.) Yes, she had, in retrospect, a few ill-advised starts between surgeries, yet essentially she won in her second start after two reconstructions of her knee.

It is a testament to modern medicine. I watched “A Football Life: Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers,” on the NFL Network on Friday. Aside from the brilliant savagery of one of the greatest middle linebackers ever and the grace of the Kansas Comet, the most significant moment was Sayers’ comment, reflecting on his devastating knee injury in 1968.

“I wish they had better doctors then,” Sayers said.

More than 45 years later, the running back nearly breaks into sobs thinking of what could have been. Sayers never was the same after the first of two injuries, while Vonn, merely by happenstance of living now, has the chance to be.

It’s also a testament to Vonn’s mentality. Vonn was certainly touched by whatever higher power to which one subscribes when it comes to athletic ability. She has a fiendish work ethic, which has taken that gift to another level.

What makes her great is her drive, which is all mental. Vonn could have called it a career after she blew up her knee in the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, in 2013. Who would have blamed her for bowing out after trying to come back last winter and doing her knee again?

Before the injuries, Von had won everything there is to win — Olympic downhill gold, Worlds golds (downhill and super-G), four overall World Cup titles, a whopping 17 globes in all and 59 World Cup wins before this weekend.

That’s a Hall of Fame career many times over.

But she still is driven to more. More tour wins — she’s only two back now of Annemarie Moser-Proell for most wins in world Cup history by a female. My pet theory, with absolutely no confirmation from Vonn, has always been that Moser-Proell isn’t the target, but Ingemar Stenmark’s 86 wins, the most of anyone.

She’s certainly is in the hunt for more medals at Worlds, and that would be quite the story here.

How about the 2018 Olympics in South Korea? Don’t bet against it.

Early people to watch for AT THE CHAMPIONSHIPS

This is on the men’s side, and, by no means, a comprehensive list:

• Kjetil Jansrud: You think? He seemed pretty comfy here. He wins the downhill and nearly the super-G. The super-G was remarkable. He looked like he was going to do a yard sale on Harrier, but somehow recovered. Without that mistake, he might have made it four World Cup wins in a row.

• Hannes Reichelt: Yes, he got his first two wins here. Yes, he got his third in super-G this weekend. There’s that and the fact he’s has 28 starts at Beaver Creek. Do not underestimate that experience.

• Marcel Hirscher: Forget whatever he said in the post-GS news conference. He’s a killer. (I mean that in the nicest way). He will be in the hunt in the GS and the prohibitive favorite in the slalom.

See you in 56 days for Worlds.

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