Mikaela Shiffrin, Marco Sullivan and Ted Ligety led the U.S. Alpine Ski Team over Thanksgiving weekend as the 2012-13 Audi FIS World Cup arrived in North America with races in Canada and Colorado.
Rising star Shiffrin, 17, of Eagle/Vail, Colo. scored the seventh top-10 of her career with a strong second run in the Nature Valley Aspen Winternational. Two-time defending U.S. slalom queen Shiffrin finished seventh in Sunday’s slalom, a day after placing ninth in the giant slalom.
The finish boosted Shiffrin to fifth place in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup overall and slalom standings.
U.S. Ski Team downhiller Sullivan, 32, of Squaw Valley, Ca. parlayed a strong training run Thursday plus two weeks of training at the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain into a third-place downhill finish in the opening Audi FIS Alpine World Cup speed event of the season at Lake Louise.
Starting 42nd in Saturday’s downhill debut, Sullivan hit a perfect line to tie with Austrian Klaus Kroell .64 seconds behind winner Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway.
Meanwhile, Ted Ligety led four U.S. Ski Team athletes into the points Sunday finishing fourth in the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup super G at Lake Louise. He missed the podium by a mere .01 seconds.
In updated World Cup standings after four races, Ligety stands in second place with 170 points behind leader Aksel Lund Svindal, 29, of Norway (200). Two-time World Cup overall king Svindal (18 career wins, 43 podiums) swept the Lake Louise downhill and SG races. He is the reigning Olympic SG gold medalist.
Slovenia’s Tina Maze, 29, the current world giant slalom champion, tops the World Cup women’s standings with 310 points. She won the Aspen GS Saturday for her 13th career victory to go with 41 podiums. Maze was last year’s World Cup overall runner-up to American Lindsey Vonn.
Behind Maze is Austria’s Kathrin Zettel (260 points) and third-place Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany (174). Shiffrin has 125 points for fifth place. Vonn (10 points) is in 53rd place. The women have staged four technical races to date.
Coming up: The men visit Beaver Creek, Colo. Nov. 30-Dec. 2 for downhill, SG and GS; and the women go to Lake Louise Nov. 30-Dec. 2 for two downhills and SG that will comprise the season-opening speed events.
Notes from the weekend:
- Resi Stiegler, 27, of Jackson Hole, Wyo. returned to the World Cup after tearing her ACL in at the March World Cup Finals. She didn’t qualify in Sunday’s Aspen slalom.
- Four-time World Cup overall queen Lindsey Vonn, 28, of Vail opted to skip Sunday’s slalom in favor of flying to Lake Louise a day early to prep for the season-opening speed series at Lake Louise.
Shiffrin leads women at Aspen
Burke Mountain Ski Academy senior Shiffrin said about her Aspen effort, “I had a great weekend. I had so much fun here. It was a beautiful, awesome slope. It was challenging, because I'm just trying to establish myself as a competitive racer with all these other guys. All in all, I'm psyched to be home. I love racing this hill. It's been great.
“There was a lot of pressure. I just didn't feel it. The pressure I put on myself is much higher than anybody else's. I tend to just ignore the pressure. I don't have expectations. I'm just trying to ski as fast as I can, and keep things fun.”
On Saturday, last year’s World Cup Rookie of the Year Shiffrin put together two solid runs, coming out of the 42nd start position to finish ninth—a career-best giant slalom. Her previous best GS was 26th in Andorra last season.
Still feeling the effects of an intestinal illness, Vonn placed 21st in the giant slalom. She said, “I feel like I've run a 100-mile marathon. And I've never run more than five miles in my life. It was a struggle. I tried so hard to get energy back up for the second run, but I just didn't have it. … I didn't have the power to arc the turns.”
Lake Louise visit for the men
Ted Ligety strategically skipped the downhill race and spent the week leading up to Lake Louise training at the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center at Copper Mountain.
The move translated into his best super G finish since taking second three years ago and vaulted him into second in the World Cup overall standings.
Ligety said, “My super G has been going pretty well, but I wasn't expecting much after just flying in and now out. It sucks to miss the podium by one hundreth, but I'm pretty satisfied.
“When you come up here to do all the downhill training runs and you don't do that well in the race, then you've wasted four days. So my strategy was to get some giant slalom and super G training in Copper before heading up here.
“I'm looking forward to getting back to Beaver Creek, it's such a pleasure to race because they do such a good job with the hill preparation. The giant slalom is my priority there, but I'm going to race everything.”
Sullivan solidified his comeback with his first Audi FIS Alpine World Cup podium since 2009. He placed third in Saturday’s opening downhill .66 seconds behind Svindal.
It was the fourth podium of Sullivan’s 13-year career with the U.S. Ski Team that includes a downhill win at Chamonix, France in 2008. Sullivan switched to Atomic skis and boots in the off season and spent a long six-week stretch in Chile to dial in his new equipment.
Sullivan said, “It was a little bit emotional at the finish. Just to have that happen after a few down years and to start out the year like this, is beyond my expectations.
“I wouldn't still be racing if I didn't think I could still compete. This year, my place on the team was a little bit in jeopardy. I lost a lot of sponsors. I worked really hard this summer and for it to show on the first race of the year was special.”