USA quiet in slalom, but finishes with five medals
BEAVER CREEK — Three days in a row? Nope.
After gold medals on consecutive days at the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Beaver Creek, the U.S. Ski Team was hard-pressed for more during Sunday’s men’s slalom.
Ted Ligety, who brought the house down with a gold medal in the men’s giant slalom on Friday, was the red, white and blue’s top finisher in 21st, followed by Tim Kelley in 23rd. David Chodounsky and Will Brandenburg were first-run DNFs.
“My run was pretty bad. I skied horribly,” Ligety said after he was done, echoing comments of his morning run. “Going right after the TV break when it’s snowing is hard. Nobody slipped (the course), which is pretty unfortunate, but my skiing wasn’t good enough to begin with. The two of those compounding, you don’t have a chance.”
Kelley was much happier with his result. Believe it or not, that was his first finish at either the World Cup or World Championships level.
“It was pretty fun. It was cool,” Kelley said. “In front of the hometown crowd, it was awesome. A little bit in the back of my mind, I think, I was a little nervous (for the second run.) I was more nervous for my first run. Once I made it down the first run, I knew I could do it.”
While the Americans didn’t leave the Championships with a bang — nor was anyone expecting them to do so in the men’s slalom — the U.S. Ski Team did leave its mark on Beaver Creek 2015.
The enduring memory for American race fans will be Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin (women’s slalom) winning on back-to-back days.
Ligety became the first in the history of the Championships to three-peat in GS. With that win, the Park City, Utah, native became the most-decorated American skier in the history of the Worlds with seven medals.
Shiffrin, born in Eagle-Vail just in the shadows of Beaver Creek, followed Ligety with a stirring win on Saturday. Leading after the first run, she charged late in her second run to overcome Sweden’s Frida Hansdotter, prompting an eruption of joy in the finish stadium.
Shiffrin, in the final days of being 19 before her 20th birthday next month, already has two Championships gold medals, an Olympic gold medal in slalom, and two World Cup slalom titles on her resume. She just might go places.
Good luck, bad luck
The Americans finished the World Championships with five medals — two gold, one silver and two bronze — second in the count behind Austria. The U.S. Ski Team was quick to issue a press release that said five medals tied the second-best output for a Worlds, last accomplished in Schladming, Austria, in 1982, and that having four different medalists in one Championships also tied a team record.
As happens at any Championships, some things broke the Americans’ way; others did not. Most notably, Ligety, by his own admission, lucked his way into a bronze medal in the combined.
After his morning run of downhill, which he described as “horrible,” he himself wrote off his medal chances. But a bad downhill run turned into an excellent start position, second, for the afternoon slalom.
On an unseasonably warm day, the course turned to slush and Ligety and the eventual winner, Marcel Hirscher, overcame 3-second deficits to make the podium.
On the other end of the spectrum, Lindsey Vonn started the Championships with bronze, just 0.15 seconds behind the winner, Anna Fenninger. Vonn said she was jolted up top on the course by wind, which cost her time and possibly a different color of medal.
Come the women’s downhill, Vonn was favored, but it was simply not her day and she finished in fifth place.
Lost in all things Ligety, Shiffrin and Vonn was Travis Ganong. While he broke into the win column in Santa Caterina, Italy, just after Christmas, Ganong made another big step in his young career with silver in the men’s downhill. Steve Nyman also continued his comeback with a fourth-place finish.
The World Cup tour resumes next week for the U.S. Ski Team. The men are off to Saalbach, Austria, for a downhill and super-G, while the women head to Maribor, Slovenia, for GS and slalom.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.