Vonn, Shiffrin officially named for Worlds
PARK CITY, Utah — And to absolutely no one’s surprise, Vail’s Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin, along with Ted Ligety, were named to compete in FIS Alpine World Ski Championships at Beaver Creek next week by the U.S. Ski Team on Wednesday during a telephone news conference from Park City, Utah.
In minor news, Bode Miller is on the team, a sign that he hopes his back is healthy enough to race. Add in 2014-15 World Cup race winners Steve Nyman and Travis Ganong, Olympic medalists Julia Mancuso and Andrew Weicbrecht, as well Stacey Cook, who has a downhill podium this season, and the Americans, on paper, have the strongest team they’ve ever had for a World Championships on home snow (1950, 1989 and 1999).
“I think we have an unbelievably strong team with Lindsey, Mikaela, Ted and Bode,” USSA alpine director Patrick Riml said. “We are very much looking forward to the championships and we have a very competitive team in every single event.”
“I’m obviously excited to compete in my hometown,” said Shiffrin, who was hooked into the call from Avon. “Last (season) competing in the (giant slalom), I had my best GS result to date. Competing in front of a hometown crowd and sleeping in my bed, it felt like a J3 or a U14 race. It took so much pressure off.”
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The state of the Bode
Miller, four times a world champion and with six Olympic medals to his resume, has not competed in a World Cup event this season after having back surgery in November. He did participate in training runs before the races in Wengen, Switzerland, and Kitzbuehel, Austria, the last two weeks.
Most notably, Miller finished sixth in a training run in Kitzbuehel one week ago, generating optimism for his comeback at Beaver Creek.
“With his track record and history, we are very lucky to have him,” Riml said. “We saw how he progressed in Europe, so the second training run (at Kitzbuehel) was very important. It showed that he needs to get more mileage to get back and in form. Every day is an important day for him to get back into ski condition. We’ll see how the whole thing shakes out.”
Three for two spots
With Vonn’s comeback from a right knee injury at the 2013 Worlds in Schladming, Austria, clearly successful to date, her selection was a no-brainer.
“I feel confident. I’m skiing well and hopefully it will be a good World Championships for me,” said Vonn in a statement released by the U.S. Ski Team. “I have a lot of confidence after having a few days of training at Beaver Creek. It’s a very difficult hill and one that requires a lot of tactics. I’m going to go in and ski my best like I always have, and hopefully it will work out.”
Vonn and Mancuso, a five-time medalist at Worlds, have locked up two of the U.S. Ski Team’s four spots for the super-G on Tuesday and the downhill Friday after next.
That leaves Cook, Laurenne Ross and Glenwood Springs’ Alice McKennis battling for the other two spots in the speed races. The team has a variety of tiebreakers for such situations, including podiums, World Cup points and FIS points.
Coming into Beaver Creek, Cook has a podium — second place in the Lake Louise, Alberta, downhill. In World Cup downhill points, it’s Ross (191), Cook (119) and McKennis (62). In super-G points, Ross and Cook are tied at 41, while McKennis has five.
“Laurenne, Alice and Stacey, we’re going to have to get together as a coaching staff to figure out who’s going to go,” Riml said.
Riml would not comment on whether the team will simply have a time trial during training next week to break the deadlock.
Shiffrin said that she will not enter the super-combined during the second week of the Championships, but she will be working on some super-G as she feels she needs some speed training for the GS at Beaver Creek.
Shiffrin is thrilled to be having the Worlds at Beaver Creek. Like most of the rest of the team, it’s strange, in a good way, to be stateside in late January, she said.
“Birds of Prey and Raptor are some of the toughest and demanding tracks out there,” Shiffrin said. “It’s the perfect place for the World Championships. Everyone feels that the U.S. Ski Team is really strong and really deep, and we have high goals. I know I feel fortunate to have the World Championships in my hometown, in my home country, during my career.”
News and notes
Miller is the senior representative of the team, making his eighth appearance at Worlds, dating back to 1999. Mancuso and Resi Stiegler lead the women with their seventh appearances. … Ligety, defending his world titles in super-G, super-combined and GS, told the Universal Sports Network that in his “head in the clouds world,” he’d like to repeat in all three disciplines but that giant slalom is his main focus. … While it wasn’t a surprise, the feel-good story of Wednesday’s selections was Nyman. He started the year on the B Team and had to raise $20,000 of his own funds to stay with the team. After a third in downhill at Beaver Creek and a win at that discipline in Val Gardena, Italy, and fifth in Kitzbuehel, he was a lock for team.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, email@example.com and @cfreud.