What an exciting, yet heartbreaking day yesterday, huh?!
Mikaela Shiffrin was en route to becoming the first woman to win at Aspen since Tamara McKinney in 1981. She could almost taste the victory…maintaining a strong lead the entire way down, with a .68 lead at the last split before leaning in and crashing just a few gates from the finish. That’s ski racing, folks. You win some, you lose some. And the most insightful thing I heard Mikaela say yesterday is that she’s working to find the balance between taking risks and playing it safe…she’s finding another gear and you can tell. To say she’s skiing well is an understatement. She’s crushing. Congrats to Lara Gut, who snagged a great victory.
The Scoop: Let’s talk about today. It was snowing this morning in Aspen and the visibility wasn't superb, but the sun is shining bright now and it is shaping up to be a gorgeous day here. Great news is that Women’s Head Tech Coach Brandon (aka Richard) Dyksterhouse set the course for run number 1. This is a big deal, and a big advantage for the Americans. Keep in mind that these ladies trained on this track last Friday and therefore have an advantage. WOOHOOOOO, it’s the big show in Aspen today, let’s do it!
Over in Lake Louise, Head Men’s Coach Sasha Rearick told me last night, “The guys seem really relaxed and in a good place. I wished them only to enjoy racing on this perfect hill with best-in-lifetime-weather in Lake Louise.” Rad. I’m so stoked. Let’s get this downhill show on the road…
Aspen, Colorado - Women’s Slalom
- 1st Run Start time: 10:15am MST. 2nd Run: 1:15pm.
- U.S. Starters: Mikaela Shiffrin (bib #3), Resi Stiegler (19), Paula Moltzan (32) and fresh of a NorAm podium last week in Snow King, making her World Cup Debut…DRUM ROLL PLEASE…Lila Lapanja (bib 57).
- Mikaela, the fierce competitor that she is, told me yesterday that she had a mental lapse at the bottom and let her focus shift slightly…but that it will never happen again. And I believe her when she makes that claim. Mikaela is a quick learner and you better believe she was studying video and reflecting last night. She wants the W today. When doesn’t she?! Love her focus and her determination. She’s an Olympic slalom champion, has three straight World Cup slalom titles, two straight World Championship slalom titles, 14 career World Cup slalom wins, and she’s only 20 years old. No time like crush time!
- Resi will be making her debut on the World Cup after tearing her ACL and meniscus last year prior to Flachau. She had a successful return to snow prep period, and was 11th last year at Aspen. She’s stronger than ever, and I believe she can make a good bid for the top 10 today. She’s a free spirit. She’s a fierce chick. And the best word I could use to describe her, she’s a WARRIOR. Watch her go into battle today. Root for her.
- Let’s talk about the rising stars: Paula is a Minnesota girl, so naturally I root for her. She’s strong and she’s the World Juniors Slalom Champ. I have a good feeling about seeing her in the flip for second run today. Lila, as I said, is making her World Cup debut…she’s the 2014 NorAm Slalom Champ and she’s an amazing young woman all-around. Cheer for her today!!
- No American woman has finished in the top three during a World Cup race at Aspen since Julia Mancuso was third in 2011. What’s more, no American woman has won at this venue since Tamara McKinney in 1981. Bill Johnson was crowned victor in 1984, but we’re talking about the ladies today…and it’s been since 1981.
The Course Report, Post Inspection Run 1: First time we’ve seen a single-pole slalom in FIS Alpine World Cup history. Keep it simple, folks. Me likey. It’s all about brevity for Head Coach Paul Kristofic, who simply says the snow is “MONEY!” Course set is fairly similar to what these girls trained on this very track last week. There’s a combination over the last pitch, but it’s not anything these ladies haven’t seen before. And the track is niiiiiiiiiiice. Buff, grippy, money. Seriously, it’s a perfect day for slalom here at Assssspen.
Who’s in the Hunt:
Frida Hansdotter (bib 1) battled with Mikaela last season for the title, and Mikaela came out on top. She was second here last year, and I think she can rip. Sarka Strachova of the Czech Republic is up bib 2. I have an affinity for Sarka – she’s a great gal, and a beautiful skier…and I used to live in Prague, so I just like her. DOBRA! Veronika Velez Zuzulova (4) will make a strong bid for the top 5. “Zuzu” has a good starting position, and her coach sets run number 2. This could bode well for her. Check out Nina Loeseth (lucky number 7), who had a rippin’ second run yesterday in GS and then I am going to say keep an eye on these two Canadians: Erin Mielzynski (8) and Marie-Michele Gagnon (11). Gagnon (aka “Mitch) is dating Ganong (yes, our own Travis…and yes, their names are that similar) and they’ll both be sending each other positive “ski fast” vibes today.
DOWNHILL DAY in Lake Louise!!
- GO time: 11:30 MST
- U.S. Starters: Travis Ganong (bib 11), Steven Nyman (14), Marco Sullivan (24), Andrew Weibrecht (35), Wiley Maple (52), Bryce Bennett (58), and last but certainly not least…Super G National Champion and fresh face on the World Cup circuit, Drew Duffy (60). No rookie haircuts there, folks, but you’re going to want to follow Duffy this season.
- Check this out. A new friend named George Thomas has been taking a peek into the mind of Steven Nyman. Awesome. These #AmericanDownhillers have been skiing consistently fast in training, with Nyman and Ganong consistently at the top this week. Will this be the year of the #AmericanDownhiller, though?! We will see.
- Marco Sullivan has been skiing better than Rearick has seen him ski in his prep periods in a while. And he’s a veteran. Don’t count out Weibrecht, who Rearick also said has been skiing consistently fast first runs in training. Maple is back and feeling good, and keep an eye on Bennett and Duffy too.
- During our Colorado camp at the U.S. Ski Team Speed Center in Copper, we had the chance to train with the Attacking Vikings, and the U.S. boys were right in there with them. Yeeeeeehaw!
- Jared Goldberg and Ted Ligety will sit this weekend out and shift their focus towards Birds of Prey.
Who’s in the Hunt:
Two words, my friends: Attacking Vikings. They’re fast, they’re big and they’re HOT. Their skiing, that is. Aksel Lund-Svindal (20) and Kjetil Jansrud (17) have been consistently crushing this week’s training runs. Add to that duo the Canadian Erik Guay (10), who is back and healthy, and has proven that in training runs this week. Plus, he’s got that Canadian home soil advantage. I also am liking Adrien Theaux (12) and Guillermo Fayed (18).
TV Schedule (times EST):
Saturday, Nov. 28
1:30 p.m. - Men's DH, Lake Louise - NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM
3:30 p.m. - Women's SL, Aspen - NBCSN - LIVE
7:00 p.m. - Men's DH, Lake Louise - Universal HD
Sunday, Nov. 29
1:00 p.m. - Men's SG, Lake Louise - NBC Live Extra - LIVE STREAM
3:00 p.m. - Women's SL, Aspen, NBC - LIVE
I have the unicorn mask in my bag. Let’s make some magic happen today, shall we?!
Ski in Peace,