Ski Racing » Stories Thu, 30 Oct 2014 22:39:39 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Lindell-Vikarby says success comes only if you dare to fail Thu, 30 Oct 2014 20:59:17 +0000 SR Staff Jessica Lindell-Vikarby following the 2014 Soelden opener. GEPA

Jessica Lindell-Vikarby following the 2014 Soelden opener. GEPA

Sweden’s Jessica Lindell-Vikarby had an incredible 2013-2014 season. After scoring her first giant slalom win on the Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek on Dec. 1, 2013, she led the GS standings all the way until World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide. In the end, she amassed five podiums but narrowly lost the season title to Anna Fenninger in the last race of the year. With her 11th-place finish in the Soelden opener (ninth after first run), she had a solid start heading into the World Championship season. 

Jessi, the season is on. How was your opening race?

We all knew it was going to be tough out there on the race course in Soelden. So, finishing 11th is not too bad, the differences are so small. It is not like I feel I cannot ski. If I ski like I know I can, I know I will be right up there.

The 2013-14 season was the best one in your career so far. It is as if something clicked for you, what do you think made the difference?

I think all the small pieces came together: the technique and timing in my skiing, a better self-confidence and more offensive attitude — you really have to dare to fail in order to win! It was an amazing season; I had so much fun and I was really enjoying it.

You only lost the small World Cup crystal globe in giant slalom to Anna Fenninger at the Finals; how did that feel?

I did my best the whole season and could never have dreamed of wearing the red bib for six races in a row. I fought hard until the last run, so it was sad in one way to loose the globe but still I felt really happy and satisfied with my performance last season.

Unfortunately, the Games in Sochi did not quite go as well. With the benefit of hindsight, is there something you would do differently if you could now?

Hmm, good question! I was really disappointed after the race; in fact I have never felt that strong disappointment before. I don’t know what or how to do it differently but for sure I gained some experience from the Sochi Games. I’ve never been at a title event before where people were calling me the favorite for gold. You don’t want that to impact you but somehow it does. You just have to find your way of using it to your advantage! 

Was it difficult to recharge after last season? 

I was really tired after the Finals physically but also mentally. It took me a while to regain my energy and to recharge for some ski tests and races in the springtime. I went for a vacation at the end of April, and it was sweet to be able to think of totally different things and just relax. And otherwise the summer in Sweden was the warmest in 100 years so we were lucky. My boyfriend and I have a motorboat so we took some beautiful trips in the Stockholm archipelago!

Last season, you won the giant slalom dress rehearsal for Vail-Beaver Creek 2015  – does that make you the favorite for the title?

I don’t feel like I’m under pressure but for sure I will be one of the favorites since I won there last year. It gives me a lot of energy and positive vibes to think of the giant slalom in Beaver Creek! I am excited that the ladies will race on the men’s course. I love the Birds of Prey hill! It’s a nice giant slalom course with both flat and steep sections in it.

I also skied the super G on the Raptor last year and it’s a really challenging and technical course. The best skiers will win the medals there!

What is your favorite thing about the US?

I like the shopping best! And New York is really inspiring as a town.

What is your best skiing memory?

We were in Aspen a couple of years ago and it dumped some 1.5 meters of snow. We skied power in the woods all day long; it was fantastic!

The Swedish ladies have a great team. How important are your teammates to you, both on and off the snow?

Yes, we have a great team both in the races and outside the race arena as well. We are close and support each other really well, which means a lot to me. We travel some 200 days a year together so it’s like a second family! And for sure it’s great to have someone fast to compare yourself with in training!

Which achievement are you most proud of?

Making it here, where I am now. The journey has been a big learning experience and I have had a chance to enjoy many beautiful places and people. It has included emotions from tears of joy to sadness. Injuries, fights and euphoria have all been mixed in.

Release courtesy of the Organizing Committee for Vail-Beaver Creek 2015

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FIS tests sprint race format this season Wed, 29 Oct 2014 20:06:59 +0000 SR Staff The new sprint race format will be tested in Innichen, Italy. GEPA

The new sprint race format will be tested in Innichen, Italy. GEPA

During the FIS Congress in Barcelona, Spain, this past June, the Alpine Committee introduced a new format – the sprint race – which will be tested on the European Cup circuit this season.

The new format consists of a qualification run from which the best 30 athletes advance to the finals. The final is then composed of a semi-final (best 30 racers) and a final (best 15 racers) on a shortened course, taking approximately 30 seconds for slalom and 50 seconds for giant slalom. The compact product will allow the best racers to compete twice within a short period of time and promises increased action and excitement for the spectators and television viewers.

Located in the northern Italian region, Pozza di Fassa will be hosting the first test of the event when the traditional night slalom on the Alloch slope will be staged as a sprint race. The competition will be broadcast live on TV.

Later in the season, there will be a men’s giant slalom sprint in Lelex, France. On the ladies’ side another slalom sprint will be staged in Innichen/San Candido, Italy, which will also be broadcast live.

The results of the sprint races will count for event rankings in the European Cup (SL or GS), while FIS points will be awarded to all athletes who finish the qualification run.

After the 2014-15 season, the outcome of the new format will be evaluated and a decision will be made as to whether or not to introduce the format into next season’s calendars, possibly at the World Cup.

Release courtesy of FIS

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Guay to miss North American races Wed, 29 Oct 2014 10:20:20 +0000 SR Staff Erik Guay in downhill training at 2014 World Cup Finals. GEPA

Erik Guay in downhill training at the 2014 World Cup Finals. GEPA

Canadian Erik Guay, the 2011 downhill world champion and super G season title winner in 2010, has had a rough fight to return to form in time for marquee events over the past two years. Now, he has opted to sit out the opening speed races on the World Cup calendar in order to heal properly in an effort to contest the remainder of the season highlighted by the 2015 World Championships in Vail-Beaver Creek. North American fans will no doubt be disappointed with Guay’s absence at the November Lake Louise and December Beaver Creek races, but the 33-year-old speed specialist needs more time to heal from two off-season knee surgeries.

“Right now, our optimistic calculations should put me back on snow around the seventh of December. If everything goes well from there, I’d like to start racing the last weekend of December,” Guay told the Canadian press. “It took a little bit longer than originally anticipated, but things are on schedule now. I’m working on gaining some mass and strength back into my leg.”

Guay’s left knee was operated on in 2013, and last January he re-injured it during training in Wengen but pushed on to race at the Olympics. He underwent arthroscopic surgery on the knee following the Sochi Games where he placed 10th in the downhill and was disqualified in the super G after he missed a gate. But the procedure left him with residual pain and swelling, so he elected to undergo a more invasive surgery in June to replace bone and cartilage in the joint.

He has stated his intentions to race at the 2018 PyeongChang Games in an effort to obtain that all-so-elusive Olympic medal that he missed out on in 2006 (coming in fourth at the Torino super G) and in 2010 (with fifth-place finishes in both the super G and downhill in Vancouver). But he will have to endure three more seasons until 2018, and he will be 36-years-old by the start in PyeongChang. In addition to his injuries, Guay also switched ski brands this year from Atomic to HEAD, and he will be far behind his competitors in ski testing and dialing in his equipment once he returns to snow in December.

Gagnon at the season opener in Soelden. GEPA

Gagnon at the season opener in Soelden. GEPA

On the women’s team, multi-discipline talent Marie-Michele Gagnon dislocated her left shoulder for the third time in eight months during a crash in the season opener in Soelden, Austria. She is determined to delay surgery until the conclusion of the season and is optimistic that she will still be able to start in the first slalom race of the year in Levi, Finland on Nov. 15.

“I am continuing this season as planned and am planning to be in Levi (for) the slalom opening race,” Gagnon posted to Instagram. “For the time being though, rest, rehab and therapy are my best friend. Off to Calgary I will be for the next little bit!”

Gagnon claimed her first World Cup victory last season at the super combined in Altenmarkt-Zauchensee and has been a top-5 threat in slalom, giant slalom, and super G. She had already committed herself to focusing on the technical disciplines in the 2014-15 season before Saturday’s injury.

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Black Diamond: The IOC after Oslo Tue, 28 Oct 2014 14:15:45 +0000 Gary Black No-go on the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Oslo, Norway. Oslo 2022

No-go on the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Oslo, Norway. Oslo 2022

Earlier this month, Norwegian voters thumbed their noses at the International Olympic Committee (IOC) when the nation elected to pull the plug on Oslo’s bid for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games despite a $900 million offer from Lausanne to aid in covering costs for the host city. Oslo was the fourth city and first final candidate to withdraw from the bidding process for 2022, leaving only Almaty, Kazakhstan, and Beijing, China, still standing.

Despite this serious and obvious setback, IOC President Thomas Bach arrogantly dismissed Oslo’s withdrawal. “No one has to worry about the Olympics. We see the world, as these games are more than ever perceived as a premium product,” he said,  adding that the Norwegians had been foolish to turn down such a magnanimous offer to host the Games.

BlackDiamondOver the last several decades, the IOC and other international governing bodies of sport, most notably FIFA, have been racked with humiliations of corruption and collusion. Unfortunately, the IOC/FIFA corruption pall has been caste over all sport federations where even the International Ski Federation has not escaped this cloud despite a clean record.

To a large extent, established governing bodies of sport must answer only to themselves. The IOC and FIFA, both of which control sporting events amassing several billions of dollars cyclically, are easily subject to arrogance and largesse. And with no one to hold the body accountable, who is to care? They can do whatever they please, and it shows. To quote Lord Acton’s famous words: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  His words ring too true when it comes to FIFA and the IOC.

Sadly, the real victim of this irresponsible governance may well be the winter Games themselves. International Ski Federation President Gian Franco Kasper understandably worries, pointing out in a Swiss radio interview, “We must be humble and away from destructive gigantism. The people (of Western Europe) feel that all international sports federations are corrupt.” And it didn’t help that Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, spent a reported $51 billion of his nation’s treasure to put on the most recent Olympics. One could argue that much of the massive amount was spent on infrastructure, but for whose benefit?  The majority of the Russian populace with a per capita income (GNI) of roughly $23,200 (compared to $53,960 in the U.S.) cannot afford the luxury of journeying to the Baltic resort. Putin’s cronies and fellow oligarchs can, but they have always favored Saint-Tropez.

The Olympic Winter Games themselves are not cheap. Winter sports require expensive construction. Particularly costly are the ice sliding venues for bobsled and luge, ski jumps and the ice sheets — not that alpine speed venues are low-cost either. Too often, bidding cities have no plans for the facilities after the Olympic flame is doused. Too many such facilities fall into disuse and are allowed to rot away after their brief two weeks in the global spotlight.

In December, a working group of the Olympic governing body is charged with developing new strategies that may lead to more a more realistic approach to both winter and summer Games. Let’s hope so.  There has been discussion about creating permanent Olympic sites, particularly for winter Games which do require – or at least should – both mountains and snow (Beijing, considered the current lead candidate for 2022, plans to hold the skiing events as far as 136 miles from the city).

Should the FIS and the IOC consider identifying 8-10 global venues and rotating through them every 30 or 40 years? The concept seems worthy of discussion; but given the arrogance of the IOC, it is highly doubtful such a simplistic idea will ever be given serious consideration. After all there will be no need for ongoing payoffs, complimentary palatial suites, free cell phones, 24-hour limousine service and open bars.

According to well-informed sources, there is almost no question Beijing will secure the 2022 Games. The Chinese are more than willing to spend whatever is necessary; and while Almaty, a city which has been ­compared geographically to Innsbruck, Austria, would likely be a far better choice, one must remember that the IOC follows the money. The Olympic governing body has one interest and it certainly is not sports: Dollars, gold, Francs, as much as they can wring out of NBC and other sordid sponsors. So do not hold your breath for a revitalized plan when the IOC reveals its deliberations in December.

Do pay attention to what Kasper has to say about the upcoming revelations, however. He understands both the needs of ski sport and the winter Games. He also knows the limitations of the IOC of which he is an important member. His comments will be a high-quality bellwether on the pluses and minuses of the Olympic future. My bet is that he will not be overjoyed. —G.B. Jr.

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VIDEO: FIS behind the scenes at the Soelden opener Tue, 28 Oct 2014 09:41:07 +0000 SR Staff Athletes from all the major ski nations spent the two days leading up to the Soelden World Cup attending a number of media events. Go behind the scenes with the FIS media crew to see what went on at all the press conferences.

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Shiffrin in Soelden: From good skiing to fast skiing Tue, 28 Oct 2014 09:21:07 +0000 Jim Taylor Mikaela Shiffrin on the edge in the Soelden opener. GEPA

Mikaela Shiffrin on the edge in the Soelden opener. GEPA

I saw a very different Mikaela Shiffrin win (in a tie with Anna Fenninger) the first World Cup race of the 2014-15 season and claim her first World Cup GS victory. What I saw in Shiffrin’s skiing was not good.

“What?” you might ask. “She just won a World Cup race and you’re saying that it wasn’t good skiing.” Well, yes, but give me a little space to explain myself.

I have seen Shiffrin train many times since her first year at Burke Mountain Academy when she was 13 years old. I also saw her train for several days in Loveland, Colo., last May while I was there working with another athlete. One thing that I have always been amazed at is how rock solid she is. I can’t remember her ever skiing out of a course (though I assume she has). Not only that, but I have rarely seen her even out of balance or make a major mistake (which, again, I assume she has).

Shiffrin is obviously rip-roaring fast as a slalom skier, having won two World Cup globes in the discipline and Olympic and World Championship gold medals. At the same time, I think that by her incredibly high standards, she was only doing — yes, you hear me say it again — “good skiing.”

Here is where the new and improved Shiffrin arrived in Soelden. What I saw in her two GS runs was not good skiing, but fast skiing. She was stivoting all over the place, off balance constantly, and on the edge the entire run. It reminded me of what I consider to be one of the great GS races of all time, namely, Ted Ligety’s gold medal performance at the 2013 World Championships in Schladming, another two runs of stivoting and reckless abandon.

This shift in Shiffrin’s skiing is why I think that, though she has dominated in slalom for the last two years, she may be even more dominant in slalom this winter if she makes the same transition seen in her GS from good skiing to fast skiing in slalom as well.

Good Skiing

This difference between good skiing and fast skiing is a huge distinction for me and one that I work with racers on constantly. Over my many years in ski racing, first as a racer and then as a sport psych consultant, I have seen many good skiers. They were technically and tactically sound and made really nice turns. These good skiers were solid and consistent. Only one problem. They weren’t usually on the podium. Why? Because they were more focused on skiing well than skiing fast.

Here’s the problem. Good skiing doesn’t necessarily translate into fast skiing. I’m on the hill with young racers constantly each winter and summer and I see a misguided emphasis on good skiing among both racers and coaches. Of course, solid technique and tactics are necessary to ski fast, but they are not sufficient. And, the last I checked, they don’t give style points in ski racing. All that matters is the time that accumulates between the start and the finish. You can have a beautiful run and be slow, and you can have a truly ugly run and be fast. In fact, thinking back to my racing days, the races in which I thought I had skied great were inevitably slow and the races where I hacked my way down the course were almost always fast.

Here’s how I think about good skiing:

  • Stable
  • Balanced
  • In control
  • Clean turns
  • Comfortable
  • Predictable
  • Programmed
  • Safe
  • Smooth

Fast Skiing

Fast skiers have a very different approach to racing. Good skiers focus on going around the gates during a race run. But fast skiers aren’t thinking about going around the gates. The Teds and Mikaelas of the World Cup are focused only on getting from the start to the finish as fast as they can. Of course, they do go around the gates because those are the rules, but that’s not what is on their minds.

Here’s how I think about fast skiing:

  • On the edge
  • Ragged
  • Mistake-ridden
  • Improvisational
  • Risky
  • Uncomfortable
  • FAST!

You look at Ligety’s skiing year in and year out, and Shiffrin’s performance in Soelden and you see many mistakes in which they lose time. But the reason they are making these mistakes is because they are going so fast! Any time that they lose from throwing down a massive stivot is more than offset by the time they gained before the stivot or mistake because they were going so darned fast.

Here’s the problem for many young racers. Fast skiing is inherently risky. Yes, the only way to ski fast is take massive risks. The downside is that, by the very nature of risks, they may not work out, resulting in not finishing or a massive mistake and a slow time.

Also, there is only one way to find out how fast you can ski, namely, by crossing the threshold and perhaps crashing and burning. Good skiing doesn’t allow that to happen — only fast skiing does. What makes the great ones great is their ability to find that threshold and then ski just inside of it consistently. Finding and staying just inside that line is a skill that takes practice and the willingness to fail and to get really uncomfortable until that which was uncomfortable becomes comfortable.

Yes, of course, continue to improve your technique and tactics. But don’t stop there. Once you’re feeling solid in those two areas and doing good skiing, set them aside and turn your attention to what ultimately matters most—fast skiing!—and let ‘er rip.

Over the winter, I will share with you many ways to make this shift from good skiing to fast skiing. But it starts with knowing the difference and changing your perspective and goal of what you want to do on skis which, for me, is to ski fast.

All my best to you racers, coaches, and parents this coming winter. Have fun and ski fast!

Jim Taylor, Ph.D., competed internationally while skiing for Burke Mountain Academy, Middlebury College, and the University of Colorado. Over the last 25 years, he has worked with the U.S. and Japanese Ski Teams, many World Cup and Olympic racers, and several of the leading junior race programs in the U.S. and Canada. Jim is the author of Prime Ski Racing: Triumph of the Racer’s Mind, he publishes bi-monthly newsletters on sport, business, and parenting, and also blogs for and To learn more or to contact Jim, visit his website. 

]]> 0 Hirscher runs Marker plate and binding in Soelden Mon, 27 Oct 2014 17:55:56 +0000 SR Staff Soelden race winner Marcel Hirscher on Marker plates and bindings. GEPA

Soelden race winner Marcel Hirscher on Marker plates and bindings. GEPA

Several industry members took notice of a unique binding and plate setup on the Atomic skis Marcel Hirscher used to claim victory in yesterday’s World Cup opener in Soelden, Austria. The fully Atomic-sponsored athlete was asked about his use of a Marker binding and piston plate in the post-race press conference, and in a convoluted reply about setup testing and his close relationship with Atomic, he neither confirmed nor denied the use of the Marker products.

So long as Atomic approved the use, that would seem to be the end of the story. But such is not exactly the case.

On Monday, Swiss tabloid reported that Carlo Janka is up in arms over the fact that his former manufacturer approved Hirscher’s use of a competitor’s product in the 2014 race, a request that was previously denied Janka in past seasons. The Swiss skier switched to Rossignol over the summer.

Swiss downhill coach Sepp Brunner was particularly disgruntled over Atomic’s decision to allow Hirscher to use an alternate binding.

“In 2010, Atomic brought a new binding on the market. Carlo Janka was one of the racers who did not like it. We repeatedly asked for permission to use the old model. But Atomic remained stubborn, even though Carlo was an Olympic and World Cup winner much like Hirscher. That’s why I cannot understand that Marcel can now use a different brand,” Brunner said.

Janka finished 11th in Soelden on his new Rossignol equipment Sunday, just one-tenth of a second off of Ted Ligety and the top 10.

Hirscher had doubts over the Atomic binding, and the specific Marker plate and binding combination he did use in Soelden is designed to perform in unstable conditions. Although Hirscher downplayed the significance of the binding and plate after the race, there is no denying it was part of the equipment he used to claim his first win in Soelden and 10th World Cup giant slalom victory.

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US men’s alpine to regroup in Colorado Mon, 27 Oct 2014 10:12:51 +0000 SR Staff Ligety and Miller look forward to competing on home soil at the 2015 World Championships. GEPA

Ligety and Miller look forward to competing on home soil at the 2015 World Championships. GEPA

Elation best described the mood of the U.S. Ski Team on Saturday in Soelden as all three American starters finished in the points, highlighted by Mikaela Shiffrin securing her career-first World Cup victory in giant slalom in a tie with Austria’s Anna Fenninger. Julia Mancuso battled hard from bib 47 to finish 17th, a result that moved her into 31st position on the World Cup start list and now guarantees her a start inside the top 30 at Aspen due to retirements ahead of her in ranking. Independent skier Megan McJames rounded out the trio by picking up five World Cup points with her finish in 26th.

But Sunday’s second run for the men deflated hopes for dual American victories in the Soelden opener as Ted Ligety likely contacted a rock on course, losing control of his outside ski at the bottom of the pitch and dropping precious speed heading into the flats, the section of the course that dictated success, to finish a surprising 10th.

“Soelden, first race, it’s always an interesting one to see where you are. Today it was clear that we’ve got speed, and that we have to clean up some things. Ted had two good runs, unfortunately it was a big bobble at the bottom. It sounds like he hit a pretty big rock and knocked off some edge, so once you do that you can’t get speed on the ski, and that’s critical for Ted’s style of skiing,” said head men’s coach Sasha Rearick. “Another thing is, I was stoked to see (Tim) Jitloff ski with intensity on the second run. The first run he just skied down the hill, definitely nervous. Second run he brought the intensity, but he made a fundamental error. We’ve got to make sure we stick to our game plan.”

Jitloff still managed to salvage a finish in 26th despite the critical error, and his coach found the bright side in his determination and attacking style prior to the mistake. Now the team will regroup as a whole during training in Colorado where Bode Miller, who sat out the season opener in favor of resting his back, will conservatively approach the start of his competitive season.

“Bode’s been working hard and getting his back treatment. The back treatment is going well and he has made the decision to let the treatment take its place. He needs one more week so he can be full  gas for Copper training and we can really get going and get ready for November/December and the rest of the tour,” noted Rearick. “There’s a lot of races coming up, and Soelden’s a demanding hill; it’s challenging. For now it makes sense to let the treatment do its thing.”

Although snow levels in Colorado have been low and temperatures too warm for snowmaking, colder weather this week will hopefully enable national teams to complete Lake Louise and Beaver Creek preparation there as planned.

“We’re looking forward to going to Copper to refine our stuff and find that next gear and be on the top here soon,” Rearick concluded.

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Hirscher wins Soelden opener on Austria Day Sun, 26 Oct 2014 15:02:24 +0000 CJ Feehan Marcel Hirscher in the finish area following second run in Soelden. GEPA

Marcel Hirscher in the finish area following second run in Soelden. GEPA

SOELDEN, Austria — If Saturday night was any indication, Monday morning will come too soon for Oetztal Valley partygoers who will no doubt litter village sidewalks with broken glass and cigarette butts after Marcel Hirscher set the tone for the 2014-15 season by claiming a decisive victory in the opening World Cup giant slalom on the national day in Austria. Hirscher had twice finished third on the Rettenbach Glacier, but had yet to take the top step of the podium in the October opener which serves as a harbinger for the giant slalom and overall titles.

“I’ve been fighting so much for this victory, and finally I got it. I’m super happy, and I wish (everyone) a great party today,” an evidently emotional Hirscher said immediately following the race. “It is not only important for me; I think it is important for the whole nation.”

In fact, an Austrian had not won the men’s race since Hermann Maier did so in 2005, one year before Hirscher made his Soelden debut.

“It’s always great. If you race good and you are risking, then you win everything. It’s the most inspiring feeling.

Hirscher held a .19-second lead after the first run over Ted Ligety, who had won the Soelden opener for the past three years in a row and had a clear goal of making it four. But an error in the second run at the bottom of the pitch just before the flats cost him over a second in time and he ultimately finished 10th.

“I was informed over the radio about Ligety’s mistake but it didn’t change anything in the way I was planning to ski in the second run,” said Hirscher. “I was always going to give it all out.”

Last season’s overall winner spent the summer tackling unconventional CrossFit workouts, and he rolled into Soelden with a visibly different body composition from the previous year. Although shorter than most of his competitors at 5 foot 8 inches, the 2014-15 Hirscher is a force to be reckoned with.

“CrossFit showed me a total new way of training for range of motion in all those workouts. I’m fighting against tired legs, which is so normal when you do CrossFit, so it changed my whole way of standing on my feet. It was a good decision,” he reasoned.

The day provided highlights for many nations, and this year’s runner-up, Fritz Dopfer, was also the first German male to podium here.

“I actually didn’t really know about that, but this is for sure an exciting news,” the 27-year-old Garmisch native said. “The first race of the season is always a good way to assess how good the summer training went and the result of today is definitely a good sign even if this was just one race. There are a lot more to come, and I am looking forward to it.”

Disappointment was rampant in the American contingent who just one day earlier celebrated the first giant slalom victory of Mikaela Shiffrin on the same hill that tripped up Ligety from continuing his streak.

“I just made a huge mistake in the one place that you can’t make mistakes,” he said. “Everybody had tough training the last week. That’s an issue that everybody has had lately with snow conditions over here. I’m happy with where my skiing is, and I’m not like panicking or anything. It would have been really easy to get second place today, but I don’t think I could have won.”

Despite finishing the first run in fifth place, more than three-tenths of a second out of podium contention at the time, Frenchman Alexis Pinturault stomped his second run to advance to third on the day, passing Benni Raich by the slimmest of margins, .01 seconds, in the process. The conditions were not ideal, but he made the best of them. His name was a familiar one mentioned frequently in the many press conferences leading up Sunday’s race, as he is considered among the favorites to rival for this year’s overall title.

“The aim was of course to attack in the second run, but it was complicated due to the bumpy and icy conditions,” Pinturault said. “These conditions were quite different to what we got in training last week and that made it even more difficult, especially more for me than Marcel. It was a big fight today and I will try to be better next time.”

Canadian Phil Brown capitalized on starting first in the second run to advance several positions forward to finish 21st. The 22-year-old from Craigleith Ski Club is part of a young Canadian technical team that is taking steady steps to advance on the biggest stage of the sport.

“I knew it was going to be rough just based on what I saw on TV and watching the girls yesterday, it chunked out. I just wanted to keep it in the fall line and keep moving and try to do as much as I can down the pitch to carry speed onto the flat,” Brown said after first run. “We’re all trying to learn as we go. We’re all pretty new, but most of us have some decent World Cup experience. So I think we have a really good atmosphere within the team. The coaches know where we’re at and they’re going to keep pushing us because we know that we can be in the top 15.”

Tim Jitloff was the only other North American in the points, finishing 26th on the day.

“Today is one of those days,” he reflected. “I know this hill. Last year I started in the middle, I’ve started early. It’s tough. It doesn’t matter what your start is. Unless you’re in the first five guys, it’s not a smooth ride usually.”

Hirscher is now looking forward to checking in with his reindeer ‘Ferdinand’ on the next stop of the World Cup tour in Levi, Finland. He hopes to bring him food and see how much he’s grown over the year. Perhaps the reindeer will take note of Hirscher’s growth as well.



By Hank McKee

  1. Marcel Hirscher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
  2. Fritz Dopfer, Nordica/Nordica/Nordica
  3. Alexis Pinturault, Head/Head/Head
  4. Benjamin Raich, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
  5. Victor Muffat-Jeandet, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
  6. Davide Simoncelli, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
  7. Marcus Sandell, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
  8. Thomas Fanara, Fischer/Fischer/Fischer
  9. Roberto Nani, Voelkl/Fischer/Marker
  10. Ted Ligety, Head/Head/Head

Men’s World Cup giant slalom, Soelden, Austria, Oct. 26, 2014:

  • It is the second race of the 2014-15 World Cup season, the first of 35 races on the men’s schedule… the first of eight slated giant slaloms. It is the 32nd World Cup race hosted by Soelden, all of them GSs and all held in October. … Soelden has been hosting the World Cup openers since 1993. … Prior to the race Ted Ligety had won the last three men’s races at the site. The last time a man from the host country won at Soelden was Hermann Maier in 2005.
  • It is the 24th career World Cup win for Marcel Hirscher… his tenth in GS. … It is his first win at Soelden, though he was third the last two seasons at the site.
  • It is the fourth career World Cup podium for Fritz Dopfer… his previous best at Soelden had been 13th, Oct. 23, 2011. … He is the first German male to podium at Soelden.
  • It is the 23rd career World Cup podium for Alexis Pinturault… the tenth in GS. … He was second at Soelden last season.
  • It is the 122nd World Cup top 10 for Ted Ligety. … it is the third World Cup scoring result for Phil Brown. … It is the 29th World Cup scoring result for Tim Jitloff… his fourth at Soelden.



 1  5  53831 HIRSCHER Marcel 1989 AUT  1:14.52  1:13.57  2:28.09  0.00
 2  4  202462 DOPFER Fritz 1987 GER  1:15.04  1:14.63  2:29.67  +1.58  10.46
 3  3  194364 PINTURAULT Alexis 1991 FRA  1:15.40  1:14.75  2:30.15  +2.06  13.63
 4  1  50625 RAICH Benjamin 1978 AUT  1:15.23  1:14.93  2:30.16  +2.07  13.70
 5  18  193967 MUFFAT-JEANDET Victor 1989 FRA  1:16.24  1:13.99  2:30.23  +2.14  14.16
 6  22  292120 SIMONCELLI Davide 1979 ITA  1:16.67  1:13.71  2:30.38  +2.29  15.15
 7  19  180534 SANDELL Marcus 1987 FIN  1:17.01  1:13.75  2:30.76  +2.67  17.67
 8  6  191750 FANARA Thomas 1981 FRA  1:15.98  1:14.96  2:30.94  +2.85  18.86
 9  9  294890 NANI Roberto 1988 ITA  1:15.70  1:15.39  2:31.09  +3.00  19.85
 10  2  534562 LIGETY Ted 1984 USA  1:14.71  1:16.40  2:31.11  +3.02  19.99
 11  21  511313 JANKA Carlo 1986 SUI  1:17.49  1:13.72  2:31.21  +3.12  20.65
 12  55  511896 MURISIER Justin 1992 SUI  1:17.62  1:13.69  2:31.31  +3.22  21.31
 13  52  292967 EISATH Florian 1984 ITA  1:18.11  1:13.28  2:31.39  +3.30  21.84
 14  40  501458 LINDH Calle 1990 SWE  1:18.22  1:13.35  2:31.57  +3.48  23.03
 15  17  421483 JANSRUD Kjetil 1985 NOR  1:17.39  1:14.22  2:31.61  +3.52  23.29
 16  38  511718 PLEISCH Manuel 1990 SUI  1:18.39  1:13.27  2:31.66  +3.57  23.62
 17  12  421669 HAUGEN Leif Kristian 1987 NOR  1:16.66  1:15.20  2:31.86  +3.77  24.95
 18  29  990048 BORSOTTI Giovanni 1990 ITA  1:18.23  1:13.76  2:31.99  +3.90  25.81
 19  20  51159 NOESIG Christoph 1985 AUT  1:18.42  1:13.84  2:32.26  +4.17  27.60
 20  25  501017 MYHRER Andre 1983 SWE  1:17.15  1:15.18  2:32.33  +4.24  28.06
 21  36  103676 BROWN Phil 1991 CAN  1:18.47  1:14.01  2:32.48  +4.39  29.05
 22  15  501324 OLSSON Matts 1988 SWE  1:17.36  1:15.18  2:32.54  +4.45  29.45
 23  23  191423 RICHARD Cyprien 1979 FRA  1:18.16  1:14.41  2:32.57  +4.48  29.65
 24  32  561244 KRANJEC Zan 1992 SLO  1:17.38  1:15.20  2:32.58  +4.49  29.71
 25  16  51007 SCHOERGHOFER Philipp 1983 AUT  1:17.76  1:15.22  2:32.98  +4.89  32.36
 26  10  534959 JITLOFF Tim 1985 USA  1:16.64  1:18.62  2:35.26  +7.17  47.45
 27  14  202437 LUITZ Stefan 1992 GER  1:16.19  1:22.61  2:38.80  +10.71  70.87
Did not qualify for 2nd run
 77  710320 LAIKERT Igor 1991 BIH
 74  460060 BARBU Alexandru 1987 ROU
 73  51332 SCHEIBER Florian 1987 AUT
 71  92720 POPOV Albert 1997 BUL
 69  370022 JENOT Olivier 1988 MON
 67  6291430 MAURBERGER Simon 1995 ITA
 65  194858 ALLEGRE Nils 1994 FRA
 64  511902 ZENHAEUSERN Ramon 1992 SUI
 63  302982 OHKOSHI Ryunosuke 1988 JPN
 61  202451 STRASSER Linus 1992 GER
 60  194146 LAMBERT Nicolas 1990 FRA
 58  990081 CASSE Mattia 1990 ITA
 57  481327 TRIKHICHEV Pavel 1992 RUS
 56  422390 MONSEN Marcus 1995 NOR
 53  202345 SCHWAIGER Dominik 1991 GER
 51  481103 ANDRIENKO Aleksander 1990 RUS
 50  934643 GOLDBERG Jared 1991 USA
 49  54031 LEITINGER Roland 1991 AUT
 48  202265 STAUBITZER Benedikt 1990 GER
 47  103865 PHILP Trevor 1992 CAN
 45  293550 MARSAGLIA Matteo 1985 ITA
 44  511852 CAVIEZEL Gino 1992 SUI
 43  700830 ZAMPA Adam 1990 SVK
 42  422278 WINDINGSTAD Rasmus 1993 NOR
 41  150644 KRYZL Krystof 1986 CZE
 39  180666 TORSTI Samu 1991 FIN
 37  103762 WERRY Tyler 1991 CAN
 35  54063 FELLER Manuel 1992 AUT
 34  100558 COOK Dustin 1989 CAN
 30  380260 KOSTELIC Ivica 1979 CRO
 28  192504 MERMILLOD BLONDIN Thomas 1984 FRA
 27  53985 MATHIS Marcel 1991 AUT
 11  422304 KRISTOFFERSEN Henrik 1994 NOR
Did not finish 2nd run
 24  150398 BANK Ondrej 1980 CZE
 13  990116 DE ALIPRANDINI Luca 1990 ITA
 8  194495 FAIVRE Mathieu 1992 FRA
Did not finish 1st run
 76  660021 DANILOCHKIN Yuri 1991 BLR
 75  750088 RISTEVSKI Antonio 1989 MKD
 72  680053 GELASHVILI Jaba 1993 GEO
 70  150495 VRABLIK Martin 1982 CZE
 68  380335 ZUBCIC Filip 1993 CRO
 66  561254 ZERAK Misel 1992 SLO
 62  303097 ISHII Tomoya 1989 JPN
 59  511741 ZURBRIGGEN Elia 1990 SUI
 54  511857 JENAL Sandro 1992 SUI
 46  202597 SCHMID Alexander 1994 GER
 33  934568 RUBIE Brennan 1991 USA
 31  50742 REICHELT Hannes 1980 AUT
 26  292000 BLARDONE Massimiliano 1979 ITA
 7  192506 MISSILLIER Steve 1984 FRA


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Tie at the top as Shiffrin claims first GS win alongside Fenninger Sat, 25 Oct 2014 13:41:34 +0000 CJ Feehan Tie at the top for the opening World Cup race of the season. GEPA

Tie at the top for the opening World Cup race of the season. GEPA

SOELDEN, Austria — What started as a race with possibly too little snow nearly became a race with too much, as course crews worked through the nights leading up to the Soelden World Cup opener to provide a firm surface and the best possible conditions for all competitors in Saturday’s race for the ladies.

Despite a noticeably bumpy ride for all who tested the Rettenbach Glacier, 2014 overall champion Anna Fenninger overcame a .09 deficit after the first run to join slalom phenom and now giant slalom victor Mikaela Shiffrin in a tie for the win. Shiffrin, who secured her career first win in the discipline, broke up what very easily could have been an Austrian sweep if not for the lone American on the podium. Her first run indicated that conditions would challenge even the most technically sound skiers.

“I had this big, crazy plan to just arc everything and I didn’t arc anything. … But the bottom I think I kind of pulled it together in time to make up some speed on the flats, and that was good,” remarked Shiffrin after first run. “I’m trying to take more of an aggressive mindset so I don’t just sleep out of the starting gate. Sometimes I look a little lackadaisical. I want to try to attack from the start but also loosen up my legs in between turns.”

Those unfamiliar with race fans in Europe might have expected a silent crowd after a U.S. Ski Team member blocked the host country’s sweep, but the jubilation at the finish line was deafening. In all regards, the Austrians appreciate quality skiing and a tight race, which was exactly what they got on the opening day of World Cup action.

“It was a big fight and my coach said especially on the pitch just make sure I didn’t lose my skis or lose my line to keep the momentum going and that was I think the one thing I think that saved me,” Shiffrin noted after the race. “I started gaining time on the pitch and then coming into the flats it all really worked well. It felt smooth; I didn’t feel the bumps as much.”

With her win, Shiffrin, 19, became the youngest American GS winner since a 17-year-old Diann Roffe did so in Lake Placid, N.Y. in March of the 1984-85 season. Course conditions turned out to be rough on the top pitches and icy along the bottom flats for both runs, and many skiers lost their upper section leads over Shiffrin on the bottom section heading into the finish. Fenninger was the opposite, demonstrating her skill set on the upper pitches and carrying it through to the line.

Last year’s overall winner and defender of the GS discipline title has now claimed the past five giant slalom races on the World Cup circuit. But she isn’t really counting.

“For me it’s just important to win as many races as I can. It shows that it’s very difficult to win five GSs in a row,” said Fenninger.

The fact that there was any ski race at all was nothing shy of a surprise. The beginning of the week felt more like the end of summer with lush grass blanketing the Oetztal Valley and exposed rock on the mountain save for the Rettenbach Glacier’s ice and carefully prepared race slope. Doubters at the time were questioning the organizer’s ability to pull off a giant slalom race where temperatures were more suited to flip-flops than ski boots.

Then, like a prayer answered from the heavens just a flash too late, the snow arrived in blizzard form, dumping more than two feet atop the race hill with wind drifts measuring a meter deep in spots. Training in Soelden was cancelled for two days in a row with the road to the glacier impassable, leaving the ladies with the limited opportunity to free ski in soft snow on Friday before going through the pre-race warm-up early Saturday morning for a race that already feels too early in the season for many athletes.

Eva-Maria Brem had jitters in the days prior to the start, but all of that melted away in time for her to rocket from seventh after the first run to ultimately wind up on the podium in third behind the tie.

“I had some good training and the good thing is the last days when I thought about the race sometimes I really got nervous. And this morning I was just happy to race, and I wasn’t nervous so that made it easy for me to ski well.”

Soelden is valued primarily by those in pursuit of the giant slalom globe or overall title, though few were willing to make predictions for this season so early in the chase.

“I was really nervous at the first run because nobody knows who is fast or not, and every race is different,” said Fenninger. “Every year (Soelden) was too early for me for racing, but this year I just was focused on myself in the start and it worked.”

Shiffrin’s recent training in super G, perhaps driven by goals for the upcoming World Championships in her hometown, may have enabled her to make up precious time on the bottom flats.

“I think (recent super G training) did help me get a comfort level of just letting my skis take me instead of pushing so hard,” noted Shiffrin.

Julia Mancuso had the goal of starting to work her way back inside the top 30 in giant slalom, and she started that journey on the right foot by finishing in a tie for 17th with Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin. There was a third tie in the race for 11th between Sweden’s Sara Hector and her teammate Jessica Lindell-Vikarby.

“There were a couple challenging turns that got the best of me … but in general it was good. I think my skiing is going well in between mistakes, so now it’s just a matter of cleaning those up,” said Mancuso. “In general, my skiing is right there in GS, so I can be happy and confident going into Aspen and hopefully I’ll be able to get back into the top 30 with that result.”

Independent American racer Megan McJames made the flip in 30th after first run and finished 26th on the day, and Canadian skier Marie-Pier Prefontaine was the only other North American to score points in 24th. Strong Canadian favorite Marie-Michele Gagnon fell in the first run and is being evaluated for a dislocated left shoulder, the same one she injured last season during training before the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Norwegian speed specialist Ragnhild Mowinckel, who is hoping to add strong GS results to her repertoire this year, described the day in honest terms. She started bib 28 and improved to 17th on the first run to finish inside the top 15 by the end of the race.

“You have to keep fighting because it’s just a battle for survival basically all the way down. … It feels terrible to ski and you don’t feel like you can actually do any work because it’s so icy and it’s bumpy and it’s tracky and it’s a fight, but you have to keep pushing and attacking.”



By Hank McKee

Equipment (skier, ski/boot/binding)

1 Anna Fenninger Head/Head/Head
1 Mikaela Shiffrin Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3 Eva-Marie Brem Voelkl/Fischer/Marker
4 Kathrin Zettel Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5 Federica Brignone Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
6 Viktoria Rebensburg Stoeckli
7 Tessa Worley Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
8 Maria Pietilae-Holmner Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
9 Nadia Fanchini Dynastar/Lange
10 Tina Weirather Atomic/Atomic/Atomic

  • It is the first race of the 2014-15 World Cup season, the first of 34 women’s races and the first of seven women’s giant slaloms. It is the 31st World Cup race held at Soelden, all of them giant slaloms. … Defending champion is Lara Gut. She is the lone Swiss woman to have won at Soelden. Anna Fenninger won last season’s GS title. She finished fourth at Soelden last season, fifth in 2012 and sixth in 2011.
  • Lindsey Vonn was the only U.S. woman to have won at Soelden (2011), Julia Mancuso was second in 2007. Mikaela Shiffrin was sixth last season at the site.
  • It is the tenth World Cup win for Mikaela Shiffrin, her first in GS. … It is her first win at Soelden.
  • It is the ninth World Cup win for Anna Fenninger, her eighth in GS. … It is her first win at Soelden.
  • Soelden has produced ties for the win before. In 2002, there was a three-way tie for first between Nicole Hosp, Tina Maze and Andrine Flemmen.
  • It is the third World Cup podium for Eva-Marie Brem, all in GS and all since March 6th, 2014.
  • It is the fifth-best result at Soelden for Julia Mancuso matching her placing from 2008. … It is the second scoring finish at Soelden for Marie-Pier Prefontaine. … It is the tenth World Cup scoring finish for Megan McJames, all in GS. It is her second scoring result at Soelden.
  • Austria jumps into the lead of the women’s Nations Cup 241-119 over the U.S. … Sweden is third with 103pts.



Rank Bib FIS Code Name Year Nation Run 1 Run 2 Total Time Diff. FIS Points
 1  5  55947 FENNINGER Anna 1989 AUT  1:18.02  1:21.83  2:39.85  0.00
 1  1  6535237 SHIFFRIN Mikaela 1995 USA  1:17.93  1:21.92  2:39.85  0.00
 3  10  55898 BREM Eva-Maria 1988 AUT  1:18.95  1:21.17  2:40.12  +0.27  1.66
 4  11  55838 ZETTEL Kathrin 1986 AUT  1:18.98  1:21.16  2:40.14  +0.29  1.78
 5  9  297601 BRIGNONE Federica 1990 ITA  1:18.57  1:21.65  2:40.22  +0.37  2.27
 6  15  205218 REBENSBURG Viktoria 1989 GER  1:19.97  1:20.46  2:40.43  +0.58  3.56
 7  2  196928 WORLEY Tessa 1989 FRA  1:18.35  1:23.07  2:41.42  +1.57  9.63
 8  7  505760 PIETILAE-HOLMNER Maria 1986 SWE  1:18.88  1:22.73  2:41.61  +1.76  10.79
 9  12  296729 FANCHINI Nadia 1986 ITA  1:19.84  1:21.84  2:41.68  +1.83  11.22
 10  8  355050 WEIRATHER Tina 1989 LIE  1:19.89  1:22.50  2:42.39  +2.54  15.57
 11  27  506399 HECTOR Sara 1992 SWE  1:22.26  1:20.20  2:42.46  +2.61  16.00
 11  6  505632 LINDELL-VIKARBY Jessica 1984 SWE  1:19.72  1:22.74  2:42.46  +2.61  16.00
 13  46  55750 FISCHBACHER Andrea 1985 AUT  1:23.26  1:19.59  2:42.85  +3.00  18.39
 14  19  296509 CURTONI Irene 1985 ITA  1:21.46  1:22.13  2:43.59  +3.74  22.93
 15  28  425929 MOWINCKEL Ragnhild 1992 NOR  1:21.91  1:21.76  2:43.67  +3.82  23.42
 16  18  505679 HANSDOTTER Frida 1985 SWE  1:21.61  1:22.31  2:43.92  +4.07  24.95
 17  65  516284 GISIN Michelle 1993 SUI  1:22.02  1:21.94  2:43.96  +4.11  25.20
 17  47  537545 MANCUSO Julia 1984 USA  1:21.94  1:22.02  2:43.96  +4.11  25.20
 19  29  197319 BAUD Adeline 1992 FRA  1:23.48  1:20.61  2:44.09  +4.24  25.99
 20  57  56087 SIEBENHOFER Ramona 1991 AUT  1:23.22  1:20.97  2:44.19  +4.34  26.61
 21  32  299276 BASSINO Marta 1996 ITA  1:22.28  1:22.27  2:44.55  +4.70  28.81
 22  13  565243 MAZE Tina 1983 SLO  1:21.90  1:22.67  2:44.57  +4.72  28.94
 23  22  505886 KLING Kajsa 1988 SWE  1:23.15  1:21.80  2:44.95  +5.10  31.27
 24  26  106825 PREFONTAINE Marie-Pier 1988 CAN  1:23.17  1:21.88  2:45.05  +5.20  31.88
 25  56  206367 HRONEK Veronique 1991 GER  1:24.22  1:21.92  2:46.14  +6.29  38.56
 26  54  538284 MCJAMES Megan 1987 USA  1:24.24  1:22.36  2:46.60  +6.75  41.38
Did not start 1st run
 31  565268 DREV Ana 1985 SLO
Did not qualify for 2nd run
 69  665009 SHKANOVA Maria 1989 BLR
 68  536481 SCHLEPER Sarah 1979 MEX
 66  705423 VLHOVA Petra 1995 SVK
 64  45331 SMALL Greta 1995 AUS
 63  56174 HAASER Ricarda 1993 AUT
 62  565373 ROBNIK Tina 1991 SLO
 61  435334 GASIENICA-DANIEL Maryna 1994 POL
 60  155415 STRACHOVA Sarka 1985 CZE
 59  515766 SUTER Fabienne 1985 SUI
 58  485772 ASTAPENKO Daria 1994 RUS
 55  307493 ANDO Asa 1996 JPN
 53  516283 ELLENBERGER Andrea 1993 SUI
 50  106961 MIELZYNSKI Erin 1990 CAN
 49  107532 TOMMY Mikaela 1995 CAN
 45  298694 PICHLER Karoline 1994 ITA
 42  197215 MASSIOS Marie 1992 FRA
 36  506348 STAALNACKE Ylva 1992 SWE
 33  298124 AGNELLI Nicole 1992 ITA
Did not finish 2nd run
 43  107387 CRAWFORD Candace 1994 CAN
 23  297702 MARSAGLIA Francesca 1990 ITA
 21  296259 MOELGG Manuela 1983 ITA
 3  516138 GUT Lara 1991 SUI
Did not finish 1st run
 70  495318 RUIZ CASTILLO Carolina 1981 SPA
 67  206355 DUERR Lena 1991 GER
 52  306977 MUKOGAWA Sakurako 1992 JPN
 51  297171 FANCHINI Sabrina 1988 ITA
 48  297910 CURTONI Elena 1991 ITA
 44  565331 LAVTAR Katarina 1988 SLO
 41  506146 SWENN-LARSSON Anna 1991 SWE
 40  206444 HOESL Simona 1992 GER
 39  516280 HOLDENER Wendy 1993 SUI
 38  56241 SCHNEEBERGER Rosina 1994 AUT
 37  197124 FRASSE SOMBET Coralie 1991 FRA
 35  306249 HASEGAWA Emi 1986 JPN
 34  55977 THALMANN Carmen 1989 AUT
 30  196726 BARTHET Anne-Sophie 1988 FRA
 25  196179 BERTRAND Marion 1984 FRA
 24  55759 KIRCHGASSER Michaela 1985 AUT
 20  425771 LOESETH Nina 1989 NOR
 17  55576 GOERGL Elisabeth 1981 AUT
 16  105269 GAGNON Marie-Michele 1989 CAN
 14  515747 GISIN Dominique 1985 SUI
 4  196793 MARMOTTAN Anemone 1988 FRA
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