Laurenne Ross, Resi Stiegler, Alice McKennis Duran end ski careers defined by comebacks

Laurenne Ross
Getty Images
0 Comments

Laurenne RossResi Stiegler and Alice McKennis Duran, who combined for seven Olympic appearances and more than 400 World Cup starts while coming back from injury after injury, decided to make this past season their last in top-level Alpine skiing.

Ross, a 32-year-old who overcame concussions, a shattered pelvis, double-digit shoulder dislocations, an ACL blowout, a hip tear, bulging discs, severe ankle sprains and more than 200 stitches in her face, announced her final race will be at the U.S. Championships that finish next week in Aspen, Colorado.

“From the community to the thrills, the injuries and pain, the sights, the flow, the love and the growth, I’m so grateful for every single part of my adventure through ski racing,” was posted on Ross’ social media. “It feels like I’m about to lose an enormous part of myself, but I am comforted by the gut feeling that “it’s time.”

Ross was the only American woman to race the downhill at both the 2014 Olympics and 2018 Olympics, her top finish 11th in Sochi. She also made two World Cup podiums — three years apart — and was fifth in the 2017 World Championships downhill.

She came back from an ACL tear at the March 2017 U.S. Championships to make the 2018 Olympic team. In downhill training at the 2019 World Championships, she crashed and suffered major left knee injuries that required surgery.

Ross sat out the 2019-20 season, then reinjured the left knee training giant slalom in November 2020. She returned in January for her final World Cup races, a 23rd her final finish on the circuit.

“I am fulfilled with what I’ve experienced, and am ready to let go of the ‘what ifs’ and untapped potential,” was posted on her social media. “It’s like I’m standing in the start gate of a course I’ve never raced on before. Except I haven’t inspected and there are so many unknowns that I’m about to face: dragons, math equations, good trouble, and fireworks.”

Stiegler, 35, was for a time the U.S.’ top female slalom skier, bridging the gap between six-time World Cup race winner Kristina Koznick and the emergence of Mikaela Shiffrin.

Stiegler recorded 16 World Cup top-10s from 2004 through 2007, then earned her one podium in 2012, coming back from a fractured tibia and femur that kept her out of the 2010 Olympics.

She tore her left ACL two weeks after that podium and worked her way back onto the national team and into two more Olympics. Her best Olympic finish was in her first Olympic race, 11th in the combined in 2006.

Stiegler, the daughter of three-time Olympic medalist Pepi Stiegler of Austria, once got out of a speeding ticket in Austria by claiming to be Lindsey Vonn. She often raced with tiger ears glued on her helmet from 2004-06.

“No words can explain any of it,” was posted on Stiegler’s social media after her World Cup farewell run, where she wore the tiger ears. “Let the memories and stories live on. I love it so much and I’m so thankful for it all.”

McKennis Duran, 31, said the word “abundant” came to mind when looking back on her career.

“An abundant amount of injuries, risk, effort and dedication, but most importantly I feel my career was abundant in so many positive and memorable ways,” was posted on her social media. “It’s time to step away from ski racing.”

McKennis Duran won a World Cup downhill in St. Anton, Austria, on Jan. 12, 2013, and had no top-10s in the following five years before finishing fifth in the 2018 Olympic downhill. In between, she missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics after shattering her right tibial plateau into about 30 pieces in a March 2013 crash. She received 11 screws, a metal plate and an 11-inch scar that she affectionately called “The Shark.”

She then missed the entire 2018-19 season after suffering a transverse fracture of her tibia and fibula while coaching at the American Downhiller camp in May 2018.

McKennis Duran’s final World Cup race was last Dec. 18, when she fractured her right ankle in a crash. She said she underwent surgery in nine of her 12 years on the World Cup, including five season-ending injuries. She will take her final lap before Saturday’s U.S. Alpine Championship downhill, according to U.S. Ski and Snowboard.

NBC Olympic Research contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Jenny Simpson, most decorated U.S. miler, shifts focus with new Puma sponsorship

Jenny Simpson
Puma
0 Comments

Jenny Simpson, the most decorated U.S. female miler in history, plans to return to racing on Sunday with a new shoe sponsor, Puma.

Simpson, whose last race was the Cherry Blossom 10-mile road race in Washington, D.C., in September 2021, according to World Athletics, will run what she called “a little rust-buster” at the Army Ten-Miler in Washington, D.C.

“My intention is to turn my focus to the roads,” Simpson, 36, wrote in an email. “I have some great PUMA spikes that I love so the track isn’t off the table. But my emphasis will be road racing.”

Last year’s Cherry Blossom was her first race longer than 5,000 meters, according to World Athletics. What are the chances she eventually moves up to the marathon distance?

“This new chapter is an exploration,” she answered. “I’m going to let the races, training, and coaching guide the next steps as they come. I know I can physically do it, it’s a matter of whether I can be great at it and my team and I will only go there if we think we can be competitive. So, let’s say for chances… 51% :)”

Simpson made her first Olympic team in 2008 in the 3000m steeplechase, then in 2012 and 2016 in the 1500m, earning a bronze medal in Rio. She is the lone U.S. woman to win a world 1500m title (2011) or an Olympic 1500m medal.

From 2007 through 2019, Simpson finished in the top three in one of the 1500m, 5000m or 3000m steeplechase at all 13 annual USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Last year, she was 10th in the Olympic Trials 1500m in a bid to become the oldest U.S. Olympic 1500m runner in history, according to Olympedia.org.

Simpson focused much of her time this year helping her Colorado community heal and rebuild from a late December fire. She did not enter the USATF Outdoors for the first time since 2006.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mikaela Shiffrin, checklist complete, carries lessons into new World Cup season

Mikaela Shiffrin
Atomic
0 Comments

Mikaela Shiffrin said she hit every possible statistical goal in the first 11 years of her Alpine skiing career. Keep that in mind as the storyline the next few seasons may turn to the World Cup wins record.

Shiffrin, who begins her 12th World Cup season in Soelden, Austria, in two weeks, is up to 74 victories on the circuit. The 27-year-old ranks third all-time behind Lindsey Vonn, who owns the women’s record of 82 wins, and Swede Ingemar Stenmark, who has the overall record of 86.

Shiffrin did rounds of interviews Thursday at the media day for her ski sponsor, Atomic. In one sitdown streamed by Atomic, she was asked, “Are you aiming for the record? … There’s just 12 left. Normally, winning 12 races, that’s a lot, but you already won 74, so it doesn’t sound that much anymore.”

“Just 12,” Shiffrin joked. “If you look at it like that, but that’s maybe oversimplification.” (Note greats including Americans Picabo Street and Julia Mancuso didn’t win 12 World Cups over a career.)

Then Shiffrin asked if the interviewer did in fact say 74 — “Yeah, you have 74,” the interviewer confirmed to Shiffrin, who sat between fellow stars Sofia Goggia of Italy and Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway.

“Even after 74 … one race feels like a lot,” Shiffrin continued. “Twelve [wins] still feels like a large mountain to climb, for sure, but it’s step by step or race by race. If I just focus on what’s coming in the next couple weeks and then keep going from there, then we’ll see.”

From 2017 to 2019, Shiffrin won 11, 12 and 17 times on the World Cup. Her last three seasons were abbreviated after her father’s death, the COVID-19 pandemic and back problems. She still won an average of five races each year.

In an earlier interview Thursday, Shiffrin expressed confidence about her preseason form. She followed February’s Beijing Olympics, where her best individual finish was ninth, by bagging her fourth World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport, crowning the best all-around skier.

“Finishing off [at last March’s World Cup Finals] in Meribel, that final race of the season, I was thinking, I could use a moment to breathe,” she said. “There was also this part of me that’s like, I kind of didn’t want this to be the last race. I was a little bit antsy to actually get going on the next season already.”

Shiffrin took less of a break than a year ago, spending 10 days in Maui. She had “really productive” training camps in Colorado, Switzerland and Chile and arrived back in Europe on Wednesday for the run-up to the World Cup opener on Oct. 22.

As always, the priority is keeping her slalom and giant slalom technique top-notch. As long as that’s flowing, Shiffrin feels comfortable branching into the speed events, starting with super-Gs. She plans to race both the slalom and GS at February’s world championships, then possibly the super-G with the combined less of a priority. The downhill is “fairly doubtful,” but she has a few months to make a final decision.

Of course, Shiffrin raced everything at the Olympics in February. In interviews last winter, she couldn’t quite explain why the greatest technical skier in history did not finish any of her three technical runs at the Games.

Shiffrin gave a detailed, two-and-a-half-minute answer when asked Thursday if she went back during this offseason to analyze those races. Or if she is brushing them off as an anomaly.

“Statistically, it’s an anomaly, but there was a lot of culminating factors that could have been involved,” she said.

In basic terms, she got on her inside ski in the opening GS and fell within 13 seconds — “a technical flaw that had a much higher consequence than it’s ever had in any other race that I’ve ever done.” In slalom, she had too much intensity, or too much speed, in a section that required more precision and skidded out within six seconds — “I was not giving anything away, and then I gave everything away.”

“There was less margin for error in Beijing because of the snow conditions,” said Shiffrin, who like every other racer hadn’t previously raced on that slope of manufactured snow. “I don’t think I maybe considered that enough in the moment when I was skiing to kind of reel it in sometimes when it would have been necessary. But I also wasn’t skiing to reel it in or make it to the finish. I was skiing to like, blow the course apart. I was going for it.”

She hopes to take that mentality into this season. In the spring and summer, she devoted more time to developing equipment that works better on softer snow, which is becoming more commonplace at World Cup venues given warmer temperatures.

“If you have a checklist of goals you want to achieve before you retire, actually, my checklist is complete,” she said. “If I had one, it would be complete. Somehow, I feel like I still have something left to accomplish, or faster skiing to do, so that’s kind of why I’m here. Hopefully I can remember that when there’s points in the season that feel stressful or pressure. There’s nothing that has to be done.”

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!