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US Ski Team making serious progress

The Nothing to do with Mikaela Shiffrin Skiing Report

Ryan Cochran-Siegle rightly has a champagne bath after winning the World Cup super-G in Bormio, Italy, last week. Cochran-Siegle might just be entering his speed-racing prime. (AP file photo/Alessandro Trovati)

Believe it or not, the world doesn’t rotate around Mikaela Shiffrin, but we get understandably Shiffrin-centric in this space.

So we give you The Nothing to do with Mikaela Shiffrin World Cup Report.

Initials

In political circles, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is known as AOC and Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett has been called ACB.



On a nonpartisan note, we give you RCS, Ryan Cochran-Siegle. When you’re an American winning a World Cup super-G in Bormio, Italy, as — ahem — RCS did last week, you have to have a moniker.

Fun trivia: RCS was the first American to win a World Cup in Bormio since Bode Miller in 2007. Under the category of freaky coincidence, RCS won 13 years to the day of the anniversary of Miller’s win.



Throw in that RCS entered Bormio on the heels of earning his first World Cup podium in Val Gardena, Italy, (second, downhill), and the Vermont native looks like he might be getting on a run.

But before we crown him “The Next Great American Downhiller,” let’s take a deep breath. We’ve been looking for “The Next“ for the American men for nearly 15 years when Daron Rahlves retired in after the 2006 season.

The next downhiller was meant to be Steve Nyman, maybe Andrew Weibrecht and then Travis Ganong. Yes, Weibrecht, “The War Horse,” retired, but we are not closing out all prospects for Nyman and Ganong. While Nyman at 38 is not a candidate to be “Next” by virtue of his maturity, he can still pop a result and Ganong is 32, and presumably should have a lot of miles left in the tank.

And that brings up an interesting question: Can an athlete emerge to become the “The Next” when he’s 32 or 28, as RCS is? While we are used to the teen-age phenom joining the tour at 16 and beginning global domination in the mold of Lindsey Vonn or Shiffrin, the answer is yes, especially in speed.

In Alpine, the rule of thumb is speed ages well, while tech does not. Mr. GS, Ted Ligety, is an unfortunate example of the latter, having not recorded a win in more than five years. If — and it’s a big if; just ask Nyman — one can stay healthy, age befits a speedster.

We need only look at Rahlves, the man the U.S. Ski Team is still trying to replace, and his career arc. We remember Rahlves winning the relocated “Val d’Isere, France” downhill at Beaver Creek in 2003. We remember him and Miller swapping places on the podium at Birds of Prey in 2004 and 2005. We remember Rahlves winning at the marquee stops of the white circus like Kitzbuehel, Austria, Wengen, Switzerland, and so on.

But … Rahlves was on the World Cup from 1995-2006. Big D did win back-to-back World Cups in Kvitfjell, Norway, March, 3-4, 2000. Those two wins came when Rahlves was 25, almost 26. (Small world: Rahlves and Shiffrin share a March 13 birthday — 1973 and 1995, respectively.)

Rahlves didn’t medal, his gold medal in super-G in St. Anton, Austria, at worlds until he was 26 in 2001. What’s more he went nearly two years before he won again on the World Cup, starting the run for which we remember him.

Truth be told, Rahlves didn’t get into a serious groove until he was 29 — 11 of his 13 World Cup wins came when he was about to turn 30 or later. While it’s harder to crack the Austrian Ski Team, Herman Maier, the legend, was 24 before he got on the board with a World Cup win.Twenty-eight of Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal’s 36 wins came after he was 25.

The reason downhillers age well — again, provided they avoid injury like the time Svindal executed a yard sale off Golden Eagle in downhill training at Beaver Creek in 2008 — is that they develop a data bank for all the courses around the world

Svindal finished sixth at the 2015 worlds at Beaver Creek in both downhill and super-G, despite the fact that he was still recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon. He hadn’t raced all season in 2014-15, yet still knew Birds of Prey well enough to to finish in the top 10 twice on one leg.

Given that context, RCS at 28 ain’t exactly ready for social security. There are no guarantees, but we might be seeing something here. Not that we’re excited or anything, but Wengen is next week for the speedsters.

Tommy Boy

And since we just spent a bunch of paragraphs telling you how speed racers age well and tech competitors are done when they are 30, we now shift to how 31-year-old American Tommy Ford is rocking it in giant slalom.

Breezy Johnson brings some momentum into this weekend’s World Cup ski races in St. Anton, Austria. The American finished third twice in Val d’Isere, France, last month forthe first two podiums of her career. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

The Oregonian has finished sixth, second, fifth and 10th this season in giant slalom events after a a tough start in Soelden, Austria, where he was 22nd.

Maybe tech racers do age well?

It’s locally fashionable to say that Ford started his recent run of success by winning the 2019 Birds of Prey GS in Beaver Creek because the world does rotate around us. A closer examination of Ford’s record shows that he’s been coming along for a while.

Ford had eight top 10s in GS the two years before he won at Beaver Creek, including a fourth-place finish in Soelden two months before his victory.

Is he the next Ted Ligety? No. No one’s going to be the next Ted and it’s unreasonable to expect that from a 31-year-old. But let’s just go with it.

Feeling Breezy

The ladies are in St. Anton this weekend for downhill Saturday and super-G on Sunday. Not that we obsess, but Breezy Johnson was tied for seventh Thursday during the first training run and was ninth in the second practice on Friday.

Wracked by injury — everyone knock on wood — Johnson is healthy — knock again — and had back to back third-place finishes, her first podiums, in Val d’Isere. Fingers crossed.

Johnson’s in the heart of the order at bib No. 15 for Saturday. Laurenne Ross is wearing No. 32, which is triumph in its own right. Ross fractured her tibial plateau back in 2019 and while that was getting fixed, doctors found even more that was out of whack (LCL, torn meniscus and bad tibia-fibia joint; thanks for checking, Doc.). Two years later, Ross is back in the start house. Brava, Madame.

Isabella Wright (bib No. 45) also starts for the Americans.

Would you like worlds?

The Associated Press is reporting that Calgary, Alberta, is bidding to host the 2021 FIS Freestyle and Snowboarding World Championships. This event was originally going to be in China, but, yes, COVID happened.

Calgary is awaiting approval from the Canadian government to host Feb. 24-March 11. We bring this up because local mogul skiers Tess Johnson and Kai Owens would kind of like to know. Of course, they have to make the U.S. team for worlds— no small feat — but we’re pretty sure they prefer Calgary to Zhangjiakou, China.

It’s a little easier from Colorado.


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