Alpine Skiing World Cup Finals preview

Ted Ligety
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Both overall titles are undecided going into the World Cup Finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, this week. Americans, too, have achievements at stake in the final races of the Alpine skiing season.

The men’s overall crystal globe — the trophies given to overall and individual discipline winners — will come down to two-time reigning champion Marcel Hirscher of Austria and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.

Hirscher goes into the final four races with a slim four-point lead. A race winner earns 100 points, followed by 80 for second place, 60 for third, 50 for fourth and on down the line.

The women’s overall will come down to German veteran Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Austrian riser Anna Fenninger. Hoefl-Riesch leads by 29 points, but was ill and missed training Tuesday. Fenninger has been on a tear since the Olympics, winning two races and finishing second in another.

The Lenzerheide schedule calls for downhills Wednesday and super-Gs on Thursday. The men will race giant slalom and the women slalom on Saturday and then flip it for Sunday’s final races.

Of the Americans, Ted Ligety has the most at stake. He’s in second place in giant slalom, the event he won at the Olympics, and is fourth in the overall standings. He could win the giant slalom and finish third in the overall with strong results this week.

The giant slalom is of utmost importance, but Ligety hasn’t forgotten about the overall. His goal at the start of the season was to win the overall title for the first time. That’s not possible anymore, but he could still match his third from last year.

“I guess, a mini goal, that’s kind of inconsequential is trying to get third in the overall,” Ligety said. “[Alexis] Pinturault and I have a little mini fight for that. I think it’s somewhat close. He definitely has an advantage, but I feel if I can have some good speed results here I can make that a little bit closer race.”

Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller could cap his best overall season in six years with top-10 finishes in the overall, downhill and super-G.

Olympic slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin has already successfully defended her slalom title and can’t mathematically win the giant slalom nor the overall. But she would like to finish the season with another first — her maiden World Cup giant slalom race win.

Here’s a globe-by-globe rundown:

Men’s Overall

Standings
1. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) — 1,050
2. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) — 1,046
3. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) — 819
4. Ted Ligety (USA) — 744
8. Bode Miller (USA) — 525

This one could come down to the final race between Hirscher and Svindal. Hirscher is a noted technical specialist, having won crystal globes in the slalom and giant slalom. Svindal won the downhill and super-G crystal globes the last two seasons.

Hirscher is attempting to become the third man ever to win three straight overall titles and the first since American Phil Mahre from 1981-83. Svindal is looking for his first overall title since 2009.

Ligety could get as high as No. 3, which would match his best overall finish from last season.

Miller could get as high as No. 5 with a spectacular week and some help, but finishing in the top 10 is a worthy accomplishment for a 36-year-old who missed all of last season following knee surgery. Miller’s set for his best World Cup overall finish since winning the crystal globe in 2008.

Men’s Downhill

Standings
1. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) — 525
2. Hannes Reichelt (AUT) — 360
3. Erik Guay (CAN) — 357
7. Bode Miller (USA) — 232
9. Travis Ganong (USA) — 210

Svindal has this title wrapped up, his third straight downhill crystal globe. Miller, who was fifth two years ago, could finish as high as fourth. Ganong, who is seemingly improving every week, will better his 18th-place finish from last season.

Men’s super-G

Standings
1. Aksel Lund Svindal (NOR) — 346
2. Patrick Kueng (SUI) — 239
3. Kjetil Jansrud (NOR) — 227
6. Bode Miller (USA) — 160

Svindal also has this title clinched, his fourth straight in the discipline. Miller could secure his highest super-G standings finish since winning the crystal globe in 2007.

Men’s Giant Slalom

Standings
1. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) — 510
2. Ted Ligety (USA) — 460
3. Alexis Pinturault (FRA) — 378

Ligety’s in for a fight for his fifth giant slalom globe in seven seasons. If Ligety wins the Lenzerheide giant slalom, Hirscher must finish fifth or lower for Ligety to win the crystal globe outright. Hirscher has made the podium in six of seven World Cup giant slaloms this season.

Men’s Slalom

Standings
1. Felix Neureuther (GER) — 470
2. Marcel Hirscher (AUT) — 465
3. Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) — 430

The German took over the lead via his win in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, on Sunday, albeit a very slim one. Hirscher is the reigning World Cup slalom champion, beating Neureuther by 244 points last year. Kristoffersen also has an outside shot.

Women’s Overall

Standings
1. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) — 1,180
2. Anna Fenninger (AUT) — 1,151
3. Tina Weirather (LIE) — 943
6. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — 773

It’s not as tight as the men’s overall, but Hoefl-Riesch and Fenninger could also take this crystal globe down to the finale. Hoefl-Riesch has seen her lead drastically fall since the Olympics due to Fenninger’s two victories and a second-place finish. Hoefl-Riesch is, at her best, better in the downhill and slalom, while Fenninger has the edge in super-G and giant slalom.

Hoefl-Riesch is all but guaranteed to finish in the top three of the overall standings for an eighth straight season, remarkable consistency for the 29-year-old who may retire this year.

Fenninger, 24, has steadily risen from 26th to 12th to fifth to third the last four seasons. The last Austrian woman to take the overall crystal globe was Nicole Hosp in 2007.

Shiffrin finished fifth overall last season despite not entering any downhill, super-G or combined races. She turns 19 on Thursday and could move into the top five in Lenzerheide.

Women’s Downhill

Standings
1. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (GER) — 504
2. Anna Fenninger (AUT) — 424
3. Tina Weirather (LIE) — 400
13. Stacey Cook (USA) — 143
16. Julia Mancuso (USA) — 134

Fenninger must win to have any shot of taking the globe outright from Hoefl-Riesch. Even if Fenninger wins, Hoefl-Riesch can finish 12th or better to win her first downhill season title.

Women’s super-G

Standings
1. Lara Gut (SUI) — 348
2. Tina Weirather (LIE) — 310
3. Anna Fenninger (AUT) — 277
13. Stacey Cook (USA) — 80
14. Julia Mancuso (USA) — 78

Gut doesn’t have to worry about Weirather, who’s done for the season due to injury. Fenninger, though, could derail the Swiss’ bid for her first crystal globe. Gut can clinch by finishing eighth or better regardless of what Fenninger does.

Women’s giant slalom

Standings
1. Jessica Lindell-Vikarby (SWE) — 432
2. Anna Fenninger (AUT) — 418
3. Maria Pietilae-Holmner (SWE) — 299
6. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — 235

This has been the most unpredictable discipline — men or women — this season. Five women have won the seven races this season, but it’s Fenninger who’s on a roll, winning the last three and favored to overtake Lindell-Vikarby in the finale.

Shiffrin improved from 19th in the giant slalom last season with second- and third-place finishes. She’s said her next goal is to win a World Cup giant slalom race. Shiffrin could move all the way up to third if she does that in Lenzerheide.

Women’s Slalom

Standings
1. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) — 538
2. Frida Hansdotter (SWE) — 408
3. Marlies Schild (AUT) — 325

Shiffrin clinched this crystal globe for the second straight year by winning in Are, Sweden, on Saturday. She could have extra motivation to win her fifth slalom of the season to surpass her total from last year.

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