The season wrap for the men’s US Ski Team
OK, onto Ted, Travis, Steve, Andrew, Marco, Tim, Jared and yes, Bode.
We broke down the season for the U.S. Ski Team women on Wednesday, so it’s the gents’ turn today.
First off, Bode Miller. I have always had the mantra of never writing this guy off because I did so after the 2006 Olympics. Nine years later, I appear to have been in error. There were 13 World Cup wins and four Olympic medals after the “60 Minutes” interview and the subsequent medal-blanking in Torino, Italy, not to mention super-G (2007) and overall titles (his second in 2008).
But after the crash at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships, during which he tore his hamstring tendon, he brought up the idea of retirement. First off, who knew there was a hamstring tendon? (I’m a liberal arts major.) Second, even by Bode’s lofty standards of crashing, that was a doozy.
If this is it, Bode, it’s been a joy, however confounding of a person you are both good and bad. His 2006 giant slalom win here at Birds of Prey remains one of the most gravity-defying things I’ve ever seen.
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Whatever you do, Bode, thanks a bunch.
This is really strange to say, but, in some ways, it was a disappointing season for Shred. By most standards, a season with a World Cup win and a Worlds title is a darn good one.
The fact is that this was Marcel Hirscher’s year. The Austrian won five of eight World Cup giant slaloms and 690 out of a possible 800 points. And that ended Ted’s streak of GS World Cup titles at two — he had five GS globes in all.
On the positive side of the ledger, Beaver Creek remains Ted’s hill. Birds of Prey was twice Hirscher’s kryptonite — in December and at World Champs in February.
All is not lost for Ligety. He’ll turn 31 during the summer, but he still has it. Hirscher mathematically probably won’t go 690-for-800 in points next year. Ligety just needs to bear down because, while he’s Mr. GS, there are other good skiers out there, including Hirscher and France’s Alexis Pinturault, both of whom finished ahead of him this season.
I know he will pursue the overall in 2014-15, but I don’t know why, at least the way he is doing it. Ligety is just not big enough to compete on a lot of the World Cup’s speed venues. At 190 pounds, he can’t glide with the big boys. In the 10 years or so he has raced on tour, he has one podium each in downhill and super-G.
Perhaps, he should take a page out of his rival’s book — Hirscher has won the overall four years running by stomping GS and slalom with the occasional combined. Hirscher made a point of amping up his GS skills before this season, and it worked.
Ted, obviously, has the GS down, tied for second in all-time World Cup GS wins. Why not work the slalom and see if the Hirscher path is the way to the overall globe.
Just a thought.
A big year for the kid from Truckee, California. It’s hard to figure out which was bigger — winning his first World Cup in Santa Caterina, Italy, in December or his silver at Worlds. It’s a good debate for Ganong, who will turn 27 during the summer.
Downhillers are like fine wine. They get better with age. You could see that Ganong started to lock it in with downhill after the 2014 Olympics with consistent top-10 finishes. After Worlds, he had a bit of a hangover, and that’s to be expected after your first Championships medal.
Ganong is gaining experience and, by and large, good results as he continues his career. When you look at the speed studs — Kjetil Jansrud, Hannes Reichelt, Guillermo Fayed, Matthias Mayer and Dominik Paris, the top five in the points in downhill — all but Mayer are veterans. They know the courses because they’ve raced them over and over. (And Mayer, who turns 25 soon, has experienced more stops and starts than Ganong, who finished ninth in the points.)
Travis just needs to race more and stay healthy. Good things are ahead.
Great comeback year for Planet Provo. Beset by injuries and equipment that wasn’t working, Nyman, 33, vaulted himself from B-team status (and the fundraising that comes with it) to a secure spot again on the A-team by finishing sixth in the downhill points.
Along the way, he got a podium here in December, won in Val Gardena, Italy, and finished fourth in the Worlds downhill.
I’d like to see him win somewhere else besides Val Gardena — all three of his career wins are there — but he now has the chance to do so with his spot on the U.S. Ski Team solidified.
And it couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.
Marco was pretty much all over the place this year. He started the year with a fifth place in Lake Louise, Alberta, in the downhill and then fell into a black hole. Sullivan, 34, was named to the Worlds team but didn’t get a downhill start — a bit of a slap in the face.
Sully came out of his funk with sixth in Garmsich, Germany, and eighth in the World Cup Finals last week in France. That vaulted Sullivan into 19th in the downhill points, so he stays funding-eligible.
That said, Father Time may be catching up here.
Progress, but Weibreicht remains a riddle wrapped in an enigma. The War Horse finished 12th in super-G and 23rd in downhill points, which is good. He’ll start next season in the top 30 in races, as opposed to the last few when he’s been in back and had to charge when most courses are tracked out.
Weibrecht also had three of six top-10 finishes this season.
On the other hand, we’re still waiting for him to podium in a World Cup, which is mystifying because Weibrecht has two Olympic medals in super-G. Of course, super-G lends itself to inconsistency, but when Weibrecht burst out with a 10th place-finish in 2007 from the 53rd bib, we thought that he would have a fuller resume by now.
As always, depth is a concern. David Chodounsky , 30, is the top American male in slalom in 25th. Tim Jitloff meanders in Ligety’s shadow in GS. Jitloff is 17th in the discipline. Tommy Ford, 25, took 19th at the Worlds GS and had good results on the Nor-Am and Europa Cup this season after breaking his leg in 2013-14. He may make a bid to move up next season.
Jared Goldberg’s also worth keeping an eye on. At 23, he’s 36th in the downhill and was the Americans’ best combined skier this season on the World Cup.
It’s only seven months before everything starts up in Soelden, Austria, next season.
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.