Vaill ’99 recap: Aamodt continues to march to history
Editor’s note: Vail and Beaver Creek are hosting the 2015 Alpine World Ski Championships Feb. 2-15. The following story is part of a series previewing the upcoming World Championships by looking back at 1999, the last time the Vail Valley hosted the Championships.
VAIL — Pop quiz.
Who were the stars of the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships? Hermann Maier (Austria) and Lasse Kjus (Norway) come to mind for the men. Austrians Renate Goetschl and Alexandra Meissnitzer are the queens of the Championships.
This, however, needs to be a quintet, not a quartet.
Kjetil Andre Aamodt often gets lost in the shuffle when it comes to Vail ’99.
Not only did he win two medals in Vail (bronze in the downhill and gold in the combined), but in the process, the Norwegian was on his way to establishing himself as one of the greatest skiers on the big stage.
Come Olympics and or Worlds, Aamodt was the man. The Norwegian — or perhaps, this Norwegian, would be a better way to put it — is the most-decorated Olympic skier in the history of the sport (eight total, four gold). He also happens to be the all-time leader for men when it comes to winning medals at Worlds (12, five gold).
The other guy
Maier likely gets the nod on the all-time greatness chart of Vail ’99 men’s skiers because he won 54 times on the World Cup, compared to Aamodt’s 21 and Kjus’ 18.
But Aamodt, not Kjus or even Aksel Lund Svindal (25 World Cup wins), is Norway’s greatest skier.
Sure, Svindal has nine official globes, while Aamodt has only four. But remember that the combined did not become an official World Cup title until 2007, and Aamodt retired in 2006. Had FIS compiled combined stats and awarded globes, Aamodt won the combined discipline five times (1994, 1997, 1999, 2000 and 2002), and four plus five equals nine.
What separates Aamodt from his contemporary, Kjus, and the current Norwegian great, Svindal, is sustained excellence in Worlds and the Olympics. Aamodt won Olympic gold medals in 1992 and in 2006, both in super-G, with two more golds in Salt Lake City, Utah, in 2002. Competing in five Olympics, he failed to medal in one (1998).
Aamodt won his first Worlds medal way back in 1991 (silver in Saalbach, Austria in super-G) and bookended his career with two more medals at the World Championships in 2003 (silver in the downhill and bronze at the combined in St. Moritz, Switzerland). Aamodt competed in eight World Championships from 1991-2005, and medaled in seven. (At the age of 34, he didn’t medal in 2005.)
Aamodt had more Olympic golds than Kjus and Svindal combined (4-2). And Aamodt still tops all comers in Worlds medals (12), including Kjus (11) and Svindal (eight).
Yet Kjus, with five medals in five events, a stupendous accomplishment, no doubt, is remembered more than Aamodt when it comes to the history of Vail ’99.
Yes, we’re beating this to death, but the 2015 Worlds has a parallel storyline happening with the Norwegians. Svindal, the better-known Norwegian, is out with a ruptured Achilles. Whatever will Norway do?
The good news is that there’s another Kjetil — Jansrud. History could repeat itself.
Slalom wins combined
Bruno Kernen, of Switzerland, led after the Day 1 downhill with Aamodt (8-hundredths back) and Kjus (14-hundredths) in tow. Again, the combined until 2007 was a downhill with two slaloms the next day. Ever since, FIS has the super-combined, one run each of downhill and slalom held during the same day.
With two runs of slalom, Kernen was doomed. He finished 10th in the slalom portion more than two seconds back in that discipline and was fifth overall.
Aamodt beat Kjus by 8-hundredths over two slaloms and the combined with all of 16-hundredths to spare, followed by Switzerland’s Paul Accola. Christian Mayer of Austria was fourth.
All of the top four in 1999 were much more proficient in slalom than downhill. Speed specialists Kernen and Austrian Michael Walchhofer were fifth and sixth, respectively, and 1.83 and 1.89 seconds back.
Even with one run only of slalom in 2015, watch the tech skiers — Austria’s Marcel Hirscher and defending super-combined Worlds champion Ted Ligety.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.
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