Olympics fans know all about Winter Games gold medalists Shaun White, Lindsey Vonn, and Evan Lysacek, but here are a few more athletes to watch leading up to the Sochi Olympics next February.
The early portion of the Alpine skiing season indicates the battle for the women’s World Cup overall title could be very close between Lara Gut and Mikaela Shiffrin.
Gut stated her case again Sunday, winning a super-G in Lake Louise, Alberta, picking up 100 points and drawing to within 28 of the leader Shiffrin in the standings. They are through seven of a scheduled 37 races.
Shiffrin, so strong this fall, took a step back with a 34th-place finish under falling snow Sunday, the race delayed by 75 minutes due to the weather.
Shiffrin had placed 18th and 13th in her first World Cup downhills the previous two days. She was 15th in the Lake Louise super-G one year ago, her World Cup debut in that discipline.
Shiffrin, the youngest Olympic slalom champion and a World Cup giant slalom winner, is turning into an overall title threat for two reasons.
One, her addition of speed disciplines to pick up extra points (she added 33 points this weekend). Two, the absence of past overall champions Lindsey Vonn and Anna Veith due to injuries and Tina Maze due to a retirement (after a home finale).
Shiffrin’s best World Cup overall standings finish before this season was fourth two seasons ago.
Gut, though, is a proven winner in downhill, super-G and giant slalom and arguably hitting her prime at age 25. Shiffrin is 21 and not entirely comfortable in speed races.
Shiffrin can look forward to the upcoming World Cup schedule. Nine of the next 12 races are technical events — her specialties — giving her a great chance to hold the World Cup overall standings lead into mid-January.
The women’s World Cup moves to Sestriere, Italy, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom. Shiffrin has won her last 10 World Cup slaloms, two shy of the record streak for any women’s event.Follow @nzaccardi
If Ted Ligety is to become the world’s best giant slalom skier again, it’s going to take some time.
On Sunday, the Olympic and world champion placed 11th in his second GS since tearing his right ACL in January.
The 32-year-old Ligety was 2.63 seconds behind first-time French winner Mathieu Faivre after two runs in Val d’Isère, France.
“I didn’t feel that comfortable to push that hard and it showed in the time,” Ligety told media in Val d’Isère, according to the U.S. Ski Team.
Ligety was ninth following the first run, 1.37 seconds back of Austrian Marcel Hirscher, who fell to second, .49 behind Faivre, after the last run.
Ligety failed to build on his season-opening fifth place in Soelden, Austria, from Oct. 23, his first race in nine months. He said after Saturday’s finish that he feels like he’s skiing better than he was in October.
“I just need to be able to put it together and have the confidence to push hard,” Ligety said.
He has gone five straight World Cup giant slaloms without a podium, his longest drought since the 2006-07 season.
The U.S. put five men in the top 30 overall, with Ligety joined by Tommy Ford (14th), Tim Jitloff (18th), Ryan Cochran-Siegle (22nd) and David Chodounsky (27th).
NBCSN will air coverage of the Val d’Isère giant slalom on Sunday at 5 p.m. ET, also streaming here, with six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller as an analyst.
The men’s World Cup stays in Val d’Isère for a giant slalom and slalom next weekend.Follow @nzaccardi