Five women to watch at World Alpine Skiing Championships

Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin
Getty Images
0 Comments

Either Lindsey Vonn or Mikaela Shiffrin is expected to be in every individual event at the World Alpine Skiing Championships.

Vonn, back this season after knee and arm fractures, said she will race the super-G, super combined and downhill in the first week.

Shiffrin, the World Cup overall standings leader, is slated for the giant slalom and slalom the second week.

Vonn eyes her first world title since 2009, while Shiffrin could become the second woman to win three straight world slalom titles.

They’ll go up against an emerging field of international stars, plus established medalists skiing near home in St. Moritz, Switzerland.

The podium finishers this week will stamp themselves as Olympic contenders for PyeongChang 2018.

Here’s the schedule (all ET):

Tuesday, Feb. 7 — Super-G — 6 a.m. (NBCSN, Streaming)
Friday, Feb. 10 — Super Combined Downhill — 4 a.m. (Streaming)
Friday, Feb. 10 — Super Combined Slalom — 7 a.m. (NBCSN, Streaming)
Sunday, Feb. 12 — Downhill — 6 a.m. (Streaming; NBC, 12:30 p.m.)
Thursday, Feb. 16 — Giant Slalom Run 1 — 3:45 a.m. (Streaming)
Thursday, Feb. 16 — Giant Slalom Run 2 — 7 a.m. (NBCSN, Streaming)
Saturday, Feb. 18 — Slalom Run 1 — 3:45 a.m. (Streaming)
Saturday, Feb. 18 — Slalom Run 2 — 7 a.m. (Streaming; NBC, 12:30 p.m.)

Full broadcast schedule | Five men to watch

Here are five skiers to watch:

Lindsey Vonn, USA
Expected events: Downhill, Super-G, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: One wins in 5 races (all downhill and super-G)
2015 Worlds: Bronze in super-G, fifth in downhill, 14th in giant slalom, DNF in combined
2014 Olympics: Did not compete (injury)

Vonn has unfinished business at worlds and in St. Moritz. The last time worlds was in St. Moritz, in 2003, she was not on the U.S. team after straining a hip flexor two months earlier. At the last worlds in 2015, Vonn tearfully said she “didn’t live up to expectations” skiing at home in Colorado, taking one bronze medal.

Vonn goes into these worlds more of a doubt than two years ago. In the last year, she suffered three knee fractures in a Feb. 27 race crash and then the most painful injury of her career, breaking her right upper arm, in a Nov. 10 training crash. She returned three weeks ago, with little training, and won her second race. However, her other four results were a ninth, 12th, 13th and a DNF.

Mikaela Shiffrin, USA
Expected events: Giant Slalom, Slalom
2017 World Cup: Overall standings leader; six slalom wins and two giant slalom wins
2015 Worlds: Gold in slalom, eighth in giant slalom
2014 Olympics: Gold in slalom, fifth in giant slalom

Shiffrin is currently the world’s best female Alpine skier by virtue of her World Cup overall standings lead. Since repeating as world slalom champion in 2015, Shiffrin tacked on her first outright World Cup giant slalom victories and her first World Cup speed race starts. She won her last race, a parallel slalom, and finished fourth in her last speed race, a super-G, rolling into these worlds.

Shiffrin considered entering the super combined and super-G in St. Moritz but decided to focus all of her energy and training for the last two races of the event, the giant slalom and slalom. Shiffrin could go double gold, given she ranks second in this season’s World Cup giant slalom standings. The last woman to win GS and slalom at one worlds was Italian Deborah Compagnoni in 1997.

Lara Gut, Switzerland
Expected events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: No. 2 in overall standings; wins in downhill, super-G and giant slalom
2015 Worlds: Bronze in downhill, seventh in super-G; DNF in giant slalom; fifth in combined
2014 Olympics: Bronze in downhill, fourth in super-G; ninth in giant slalom; DNF in combined

Gut has been the best all-around skier since the Sochi Olympics, fulfilling promise first shown at the 2009 World Championships, when she took downhill and super combined silver at age 17. Gut’s only medals at the last Olympics and Worlds came in downhill, but super-G is her strongest event. She’s the clear favorite at home on Tuesday, with three wins in four World Cup super-Gs this season.

Gut’s prep for worlds was not ideal, however. She crashed in her most recent race on Jan. 29, forcing her to miss an event last Tuesday and said on social media that she “got ready for world champs taking care of my leg.”

Ilka Stuhec, Slovenia
Expected events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: No. 4 in overall standings; wins in downhill, super-G and super combined
2015 Worlds: 20th in downhill, 17th in super-G, 25th in giant slalom, seventh in combined
2014 Olympics: 10th in downhill, 13th in super-G, 31st in giant slalom, DNF in combined

The 26-year-old has been the phenom of the World Cup season, winning the first three downhills and tacking on super-G and super combined wins for good measure. It took the 2007 and 2008 World junior champion 113 World Cup starts to notch her first podium this season. She figures to battle Vonn and Gut for the super-G and downhill crowns in St. Moritz.

Anna Veith, Austria
Expected events: Downhill, Super-G, Giant Slalom, Super Combined
2017 World Cup: Seven podiums in 14 races; second in overall standings
2015 Worlds: Gold in super-G and giant slalom; silver in downhill; fourth in combined
2014 Olympics: Gold in super-G; silver in giant slalom; eighth in super combined; DNF in downhill

Veith had a drawn-out comeback from tearing the ACL and patellar tendon in her right knee in an Oct. 21, 2015 crash. She missed all of the 2015-16 campaign and has been slow to return to form this season. Her best finish was 19th in her first six races, but then Veith placed third in the last super-G before worlds. When on her game in 2014 and 2015, Veith was the world’s best overall skier.

MORE: Vonn develops friendship with young skier battling cancer

Japanese pair edges Americans for historic Grand Prix Final figure skating title

Riku Miura, Ryuichi Kihara
Getty
0 Comments

Riku Miura and Ryuichi Kihara won the biggest title ever for a Japanese figure skating pair, taking the Grand Prix Final and consolidating their status as the world’s top active team.

Miura and Kihara, last season’s world silver medalists, barely outscored world champions Alexa Knierim and Brandon Frazier in Turin, Italy, in both Thursday’s short program and Friday’s free skate to win the six-pair event that is a preview of March’s worlds.

The Japanese totaled 214.58 points, distancing the Americans by a mere 1.3 points after Frazier erred on both of their side-by-side jumping passes in the free skate. Italians Sara Conti and Niccolo Macii took bronze.

“We had a very late start to our season than initially planned, so as we have been performing at each event, I see us getting stronger, improving things,” said Frazier, who with Knierim had their best short program and free skate scores of the autumn.

Knierim and Frazier didn’t decide to continue competing together this season until July.

“I feel a little personally disappointed tonight just for myself for my jumps,” Frazier continued. “I was a little all over the place and, normally, I can execute better, so I feel a little bad, but I’m very proud of us overall. We’ve done a great job of improving each competition and looking forward to the second half of the season where we can start tapping into our best skating.”

GRAND PRIX FINAL: Results | Broadcast Schedule

Miura and Kihara, who partnered in June 2019 and train in Ontario, both waited with trepidation for their final score to be posted, worried that each’s separate mistake on jumps might cost them the title. When they learned they won, both burst into tears.

“This was the first time in eight years that I made a mistake with a Salchow, so I thought we might not get a good score, and it would be my fault,” Kihara said.

Miura and Kihara entered the competition ranked No. 1 in the world by best scores this season ahead of Knierim and Frazier, who in March became the first U.S. pair to win a world title since 1979.

Last season, Miura and Kihara became the second Japanese pair to make a Grand Prix podium and to earn a world championships medal. Their ascension helped Japan win its first Olympic figure skating team event medal in February (a bronze that could be upgraded to gold pending the Kamila Valiyeva case).

In Grand Prix Final history, Japan had won 11 gold medals and 40 total medals, all in singles, before this breakthrough.

Knierim and Frazier, already the first U.S. pair to compete in the Grand Prix Final since 2015, became the first U.S. pair to win a Grand Prix Final medal. The Final has been held annually since 1996, though it was canceled the last two seasons due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Miura and Kihara and Knierim and Frazier ascended to the top of the sport while the top five teams from the Olympics from Russia and China have not competed internationally since the Winter Games.

All Russian skaters are ineligible for international competition due to the war in Ukraine. China’s pairs, including Olympic champions Sui Wenjing and Han Cong, didn’t enter last March’s worlds and did not compete in the fall Grand Prix Series.

Later Friday, world champion Kaori Sakamoto of Japan led the women’s short program with 75.86 points, 1.28 ahead of countrywoman Mai Mihara. American Isabeau Levito, the 15-year-old world junior champion, was fifth of six skaters in her Grand Prix Final debut.

Canadians Piper Gilles and Paul Poirier topped the rhythm dance with 85.93 points, edging Americans Madison Chock and Evan Bates by .44. Both couples are bidding for the biggest international title of their careers. None of the Olympic medalists competed internationally this fall.

The Grand Prix Final ends Saturday with the men’s and women’s free skates and free dance, all live on Peacock.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

A Winter Olympic medal still being decided, 10 months later

Fanny Smith, Daniela Maier
It's still unknown whether Fanny Smith (green) or Daniela Maier (blue) is the Olympic ski cross bronze medalist. (Getty)
0 Comments

There is a second Winter Olympic medal result still in question, 10 months after the Games.

While the figure skating team event results are still unknown due to the Kamila Valiyeva case, the bronze medal in women’s ski cross is also in dispute.

Originally, Swiss Fanny Smith crossed the finish line in third place in the four-woman final at the Winter Games in February. Upon review by the International Ski Federation (FIS) jury, she was minutes later demoted to fourth place after making contact with German Daniela Maier near the end of the course. Maier, who originally was fourth, was upgraded to bronze.

“I tried to be OK with the fourth place. I was very disappointed, I have to say, [then] the jury was like this,” Maier said then. “I am really sorry for Fanny that it’s like this right now. … The jury decided like this, so accept it and be happy with the medal.”

Smith and the Swiss ski federation appealed. FIS reinstated Smith as the bronze medalist nine days after the race and six days after the Closing Ceremony. A FIS appeals commission met four times and reviewed video and written documentation for several hours before deciding that “the close proximity of the racers at that moment resulted in action that was neither intentional or avoidable.”

But that wasn’t the end. The case ended up reportedly going to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), whose rulings are usually accepted as final. The CAS process is ongoing, European media reported this week.

CAS has not responded to a request for comment. A FIS contact said Friday, “There is currently no update to provide in regards to the bronze medal in ski cross. Should there be any update, we will inform you.”

Smith said there should be news soon regarding the case, according to Blick.

Maier still has the bronze medal at her home and enjoys looking at it, according to German media, which also reported that the German ski federation expects Maier to win the case and keep the medal. Smith and Maier spoke extensively about it in recent training sessions and cleared things up. Maier said the best outcome would be bronze medals for both of them, according to the report.

For now, FIS lists Smith as the bronze medalist. The IOC lists Maier as the bronze medalist.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!