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Travis Ganong, top U.S. downhill skier, to miss Olympics

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Travis Ganong, the only U.S. man to win a World Cup Alpine skiing event in the last two years, tore an ACL in a race crash Thursday and will miss the Olympics, according to his social media.

Ganong, 29, earned downhill silver at the 2015 World Championships in Colorado, one of few highlights for the U.S. men’s speed team since the Sochi Olympics.

He also won a World Cup downhill last Jan. 27, ending the U.S.’ longest drought between men’s World Cup wins since 2000.

The previous win was by Ted Ligety on Oct. 25, 2015.

Ganong and the rest of the U.S. downhillers have struggled this season. Ganong’s best World Cup finish before his crash was 16th.

No U.S. man has finished in the top eight of a World Cup downhill or super-G this season. Ligety has the top finish in any event, a fifth in a giant slalom on Dec. 17.

The U.S. Olympic Alpine team will be named in three weeks.

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As you may have seen, I crashed in the downhill race in Bormio a few days ago, and tweaked my right knee.  After flying home and getting an MRI, it is confirmed that I have torn my ACL which unfortunately means my season is over. Bormio is a bittersweet place for me now as it is where I scored my first World Cup Points, had my first top 10, and where I won my first World Cup DH (in nearby Santa Caterina). However, now it is also the place where I had my first crash after 115 World Cup starts, and the first time that I have hit the B-net, in both training and racing! Having an injury is tough, and I am especially disappointed that this happened 5 weeks before the Olympics in South Korea where I was hoping to represent my country for the second time and fight for medals.  Now my next 6 months will obviously be very different to those of a World Cup skier, but I am excited for this new challenge and I am looking forward to re-setting, re-motivating, and working harder than ever to come back even stronger than I am now.  I still have many goals and much that I want to accomplish as a professional skier, and I can’t wait to get back into the starting gate again next season.  I will also have a great rehab partner with @mmgagnon rehabbing by my side! I want to thank all of my sponsors, fans, coaches, teammates and everyone at U.S. Ski & Snowboard, my friends and my family for their continued support and I want to let you all know that it is an honor being a part of the snow sports community! I will be cheering for the whole team in South Korea and I am excited to see so many talented athletes achieve their goals at the Games. I am planning on having surgery late this week after the swelling has gone down and I have my range of motion back.  After that I will start the rehab process here in Lake Tahoe, and also re-start working on my Ski Resort Management and Business degree from @sierranevadacollege .  I am also looking forward to having some time to work on and launch a new coffee company @pacificcrestcoffee (more to come)! So here is to a new year filled with new challenges!  The road back is not always easy, but I am embracing it and will be ready…

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Five men to watch at World Alpine Skiing Championships

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The time is ripe for new men to establish themselves as Olympic medal contenders at the World Alpine Skiing Championships.

The three most successful active Americans on the World Cup tour are not racing in St. Moritz the next two weeks — Bode Miller (commentating for NBC Sports, but may come back next season), Ted Ligety (back surgery) and Steven Nyman (knee injury).

Neither is Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, the greatest active speed racer, due to knee surgery.

Who will star in their absences?

The list has to start with Austrian Marcel Hirscher, the five-time reigning World Cup overall champion who is expected to race five of six events (including the team event) in St. Moritz.

Hirscher leads a talented field of 20-somethings who next year will be looking to unseat the aforementioned old guard for their first Olympic gold medals. The new crop is mostly from Europe — Europeans have won 26 of 27 World Cup races this season.

The U.S. team — with neither Miller nor Ligety for the first time since 1997 — has no racers in the top five of the World Cup standings in any discipline. The last time the U.S. men earned no medals at worlds was 2007, which could be a stat heard often over the next two weeks in St. Moritz.

Here’s the schedule (all ET):

Wednesday, Feb. 8 — Super-G — 6 a.m. (NBCSN, Streaming)
Saturday, Feb. 11 — Downhill — 6 a.m. (Streaming; NBC, 2:30 p.m.)
Monday, Feb. 13 — Super Combined Downhill — 4 a.m. (Streaming)
Monday, Feb. 13 — Super Combined Slalom — 7 a.m. (NBCSN, Streaming)
Friday, Feb. 17 — Giant Slalom Run 1 — 3:45 a.m. (Streaming)
Friday, Feb. 17 — Giant Slalom Run 2 — 7 a.m. (NBCSN, Streaming)
Sunday, Feb. 19 — Slalom Run 1 — 3:45 a.m. (Streaming)
Sunday, Feb. 19 — Slalom Run 2 — 7 a.m. (NBCSN, Streaming)

Full broadcast schedule | Five women to watch

Here are five skiers to watch:

Marcel Hirscher, Austria
Expected events: Super-G, Giant Slalom, Slalom, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: Overall standings leader; podiums in 14 of 20 starts
2015 Worlds: Gold in combined; silver in giant slalom; DNF in slalom
2014 Olympics: Silver in slalom; fourth in giant slalom

The Austrian technical-race ace is en route to his sixth straight World Cup overall title this season. No other man has won that many, consecutive or not. He already owns world titles in slalom and super combined, but his best shot at gold in St. Moritz appears to be the giant slalom. Hirscher was second to Ted Ligety at the last two worlds, but the American is out the rest of this season due to back surgery.

Hirscher has already proven his excellence on the World Cup and world championships stages. It’s PyeongChang where he must deliver, since he lacks Olympic gold. Hirscher is only 27 years old, but he has cast doubt on going all the way to the 2022 Winter Games.

Alexis Pinturault, France
Expected events: Super-G, Giant Slalom, Slalom, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: Tied for second in overall standings; four wins
2015 Worlds: Bronze in giant slalom; fifth in combined; 11th in super-G; DNF in slalom
2014 Olympics: Bronze in giant slalom; DNF in slalom, combined

Pinturault, the son of a Norwegian mother and a Courchevel hotelier, is the most talented all-around skier in the world without an Olympic or world title. The 25-year-old has won nine World Cup races in the last 365 days, more than any other man, including Hirscher. That talent manifests most in the super combined. Pinturault has won six of the 11 World Cup combined races since 2013.

Henrik Kristoffersen, Norway
Expected events: Giant Slalom, Slalom
2017 World Cup: Tied for second in overall standings; five wins (all slalom)
2015 Worlds: Fourth in slalom; 13th in giant slalom
2014 Olympics: Bronze in slalom; 10th in giant slalom

Norway is known for its speed skiers, but the 22-year-old Kristoffersen is a notable exception. In Sochi, he became the youngest man to earn an Olympic Alpine medal. He missed the medals at the 2015 Worlds but beat out Hirscher for last season’s World Cup slalom title. This season, Kristoffersen has won five of his eight slalom starts. Nicknamed “Wild Child” as a kid due to his energy, Kristoffersen skipped the season’s first slalom because the Norwegian federation wouldn’t let him wear a helmet with a Red Bull logo.

Kjetil Jansrud, Norway
Expected events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: No. 4 in overall standings; four wins
2015 Worlds: Silver in combined; fourth in super-G; 15th in downhill
2014 Olympics: Gold in super-G; bronze in downhill; fourth in combined; DNF in giant slalom

Jansrud, raised in the 1994 Olympic town of Lillehammer, is from more of the burly Attacking Viking mold we’re used to seeing from the Norwegian contingent. He tore his ACL at the 2013 Worlds and came back to have the best Olympics of any male Alpiner with two medals and a fourth-place finish. In the absence of fellow Olympic super-G champion Aksel Lund Svindal, Jansrud shoulders the majority of Norway’s hopes in the speed races in St. Moritz.

Travis Ganong, USA
Expected events: Downhill, Super-G
2017 World Cup: Downhill win in Garmisch-Partenkirchen ended a 15-month U.S. men’s drought
2015 Worlds: Silver in downhill; DNF in super-G
2014 Olympics: Fifth in downhill; 23rd in super-G

With Miller, Ligety and Nyman out, the U.S. medals hopes pretty much rest on Ganong, the only man on the roster with a World Cup win. The 28-year-old enjoyed a fifth-place finish in his Olympic debut in the Sochi downhill, made his first World Cup podium later that month and won his first World Cup race in December 2014. He followed that up with a surprise 2015 World Championships downhill silver medal. Ganong went more than one year between top-five finishes on the World Cup before winning a downhill on Jan. 27.

MORE: Vonn develops friendship with young skier battling cancer

Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin lead U.S. roster for World Alpine Skiing Champs

Lindsey Vonn, MIkaela Shiffrin
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Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin headline the U.S. team for the World Alpine Skiing Championships starting next week.

Julia Mancuso, a medalist at the last three Olympics who hasn’t raced since March 2015, is also on the 23-skier team headed to St. Moritz, Switzerland, for the Feb. 7-19 championships.

Vonn, who returned this month from knee and arm fractures, will eye her first world title since she swept the downhill and super-G in 2009. Vonn won her second race back Jan. 21 but hasn’t finished better than ninth in her other four starts. She’s expected to race downhill, super-G and super combined at worlds.

Shiffrin is the world’s best female skier, leading the World Cup overall standings, and will seek to become the second woman to win three straight world slalom titles. She’s also a threat in giant slalom, ranking second this season in that discipline. She doesn’t plan to race the other worlds events.

Mancuso was named to the worlds for an eighth straight time despite missing all of last season due to hip surgery. Mancuso took World Cup training runs this month but wasn’t quite ready to race. At worlds, race starters will be finalized the evening prior to each event.

The U.S. team lacks its two biggest male stars — Bode Miller and Ted Ligety.

Miller, the most decorated U.S. Olympic skier with six medals, has not raced since Feb. 5, 2015, when he severed a right hamstring tendon in a world championships super-G crash.

Miller is healthy now but hasn’t raced this season due at least in part to a sponsor dispute. He is expected to return to racing next season, eyeing his sixth Olympics at age 40. Miller will be on the NBC broadcast team during worlds.

Ligety, the three-time reigning world giant slalom champion, is out for the season after undergoing back surgery two weeks ago.

With Miller and Ligety’s absences, the U.S. will have zero past men’s Olympic or world gold medalists at a world championships for the first time since 2001.

That leaves a relatively inexperienced cast supporting Vonn and Shiffrin, looking to build on a five-medal U.S. output at the 2015 World Championships at home in Colorado.

The most accomplished U.S. men on the team are speed racers Travis Ganong and Andrew Weibrecht. Ganong, the 2015 World downhill silver medalist, won a World Cup downhill on Friday for his first victory since his maiden win in December 2014.

Weibrecht owns as many Olympic medals as Vonn (two) but has never won a World Cup race nor been better than ninth at worlds.

All of the above mentioned skiers (other than Shiffrin) are 28 years or older. The U.S. is lacking a pool of young talent. Jackie Wiles, 24, recorded her first World Cup podium on Jan. 15, finishing third in a downhill.

MORE: Vonn: Record more important than Olympic gold

U.S. roster for World Championships
Stacey Cook — Three-time Olympian
Breezy Johnson
Julia Mancuso — Four Olympic medals
Megan McJames — Two-time Olympian
Laurenne Ross — Sochi Olympian
Mikaela Shiffrin — Olympic slalom champion
Resi Stiegler — Two-time Olympian
Lindsey Vonn — 2010 Olympic downhill champion
Jackie Wiles — Sochi Olympian

Michael Ankeny
Bryce Bennett
Tommy Biesemeyer
David Chodounsky — Sochi Olympian
Ryan Cochran-Siegle
Mark Engel
Tommy Ford — Vancouver Olympian
Travis Ganong — 2015 World downhill silver medalist
AJ Ginnis
Jared Goldberg — Sochi Olympian
Tim Jitloff — Sochi Olympian
Robby Kelley
Brennan Rubie
Andrew Weibrecht — Two Olympic medals

Tues. Feb 7
6:00 a.m. – Women’s super G, NBCSN – LIVE

Wed. Feb 8
6:00 a.m. – Men’s super G, NBCSN – LIVE

Fri. Feb 10
7:00 a.m. – Women’s alpine combined, NBCSN – LIVE

Sat. Feb 11
6:00 a.m. – Men’s downhill, nbcsports.com – LIVE
2:30 p.m. – Men’s downhill, NBC

Sun. Feb 12
6:00 a.m. – Women’s downhill, nbcsports.com – LIVE
12:30 p.m. – Women’s downhill, NBC

Mon. Feb 13
7:00 a.m. – Men’s alpine combined, NBCSN – LIVE

Tues. Feb 14
6:00 a.m. – Nations team event, NBCSN – LIVE

Thurs. Feb 16
3:45 a.m. – Women’s giant slalom, first run, nbcsports.com – LIVE
7:00 a.m. – Women’s giant slalom, NBCSN – LIVE

Fri. Feb 17
3:45 a.m. – Men’s giant slalom, first run, nbcsports.com – LIVE
7:00 a.m. – Men’s giant slalom, NBCSN

Sat. Feb 18
3:45 a.m. – Women’s slalom, first run, nbcsports.com – LIVE
7:00 a.m. – Women’s slalom, second run, nbcsports.com – LIVE
12:30 p.m. – Women’s slalom, NBC

Sunday, Feb. 19
3:45 a.m. – Men’s slalom, first run, nbcsports.com – LIVE
7:00 a.m. – Men’s slalom, NBCSN