This time, flip-flopping is a good thing
BEAVER CREEK – Flip-flip, flip-flop, Ligety split and who needs a hand?That’s what we’ll remember from the 2005 Birds of Prey. Bode Miller and Daron Rahlves threw the podium around in downhill and giant slalom like it was their personal Frisbee and two other Americans – Ted Ligety and Erik Schlopy – had stunning performances this week.To put it into perspective, the Americans had more medals – five, two golds, two silvers and a bronze – than the Austrians – two, one gold and a bronze. Who thought we would have all lived this long to see this?There is no need to write obituaries for Austrian skiing, but it is safe to say that the American men have arrived as a force on the World Cup circuit. A look back at a great week of racing:
Daron Miller and Bode RahlvesAmerica’s two big guns delivered in breathtaking fashion. They were essentially tied to each other’s waists this week. Republican strategists might say they flip-flopped more than John Kerry.Rahlves called his shot last month at Copper Mountain, saying he would reverse last year’s DH result when he finished second behind Miller. Daron threw it down in front of his Tahoe posse Friday, making good on his guarantee.Both men skied to their form this week. Rahlves was the essence of consistency. He was in the top five in his three races – fifth in super-G, first in DH and second in GS. Miller was Miller – all or nothing – gold in GS, silver in DH and a DNF in SG and slalom.
I still do not know how he won that GS gold Saturday. Those two runs were the stuff of legend.He may turn people the wrong way with his style and the way he carries himself. I don’t care. This is an Olympic year and alpine skiing needs characters who can back it up like Miller if the sport is to make inroads on America’s consciousness. Who?From where did young Ligety come? He had an eighth in GS in Soelden, Austria, earlier this year, but his best result in SL until Sunday was a 10th Kranjska Gora, Slovakia, last year. The look on his face Sunday in the finish area was priceless.Equally priceless was Schlopy’s fourth-place finish in Saturday’s GS. He didn’t make much of breaking his left hand because it essentially wasn’t one of the more critical parts of the body when it comes to skiing.
But you try to ski with a broken hand. I will never forget Schlopy showing the media corral how his pole was taped up to his hand for his second run. Really gutsy stuff.Maier M.I.A.What happened to the Herminator this week? Maier was eighth in SG, eighth in GS and a shocking T19 in DH. You kept on expecting Maier to put down that one big run as he always seems to do here, but it just didn’t happen.Though he did get silver in last year’s GS, he hasn’t won here in two years. Yes, we hold Maier to a higher standard, but this is the guy who has a staggering eight wins at Birds of Prey.
When it comes to the Olympics next February, I hope Maier wins the SG, Rahlves wins the DH and Miller the GS. I want Maier to finish his distinguished career on a high note.Did we get any snow this week?Congratulations to everyone on the race crew, to everyone who was slipping the Birds of Prey, to all the Snocats working the hill and to anyone who was using a shovel to get the course ready for all four races. Sure, the Austrians complained, but they only won two medals and were in a cranky mood. It was key that Beaver Creek was able to pull off the DH Friday and I have no idea how the resort was able to hold the GS. Sure, it’s a technical event, but I had 16 inches of snow in my parking lot in Eagle-Vail that morning.
While it was difficult for all involved, Vail and Beaver Creek got a free week’s worth of advertising. There be snow in them thar mountains.In the meantime, the actual bird of prey flew the coup after Sunday’s SL. Hopefully, the bird will fly back by 2006.Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14630 or email@example.com.Vail, Coilorado