Most seasons are full of surprises at this early stage, and this season is no different. The only question is, which is the most notable. Here’s a list, arguably biggest to smallest…
- Lindsey Vonn struggling at Lake Louise
- Mikaela Shiffrin won a Downhill competition
- Anna Veith & Ted Ligety struggling in return from injury
- Aksel Lund Svindal & Marcel Hirscher victorious in return from injury
…yes, I submit that Vonn’s misfires were the biggest surprise, primarily because it was so heartbreaking to watch.
Shiffrin of course was the feel-good of the weekend, winning the sport’s most dangerous event in just her fourth attempt at this level. She naturally tried to downplay this incredible accomplishment, chalking it up to a technical course and favorable conditions coinciding with her start time. Well I don’t care what the conditions were, nor how turny the course was, she still beat a field of highly accomplished speed specialists to the bottom of the hill. That’s incredible. Add in Shiffrin’s third place in the December 1st event, and surprise, she’s the points leader in the downhill discipline!
The chase for the overall is about what you’d expect, Shiffrin leading as well. But we’re seeing excellent skiing from Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, a slow but solid comeback for Swiss skier Lara Gut, and strong results from Tina Weirather of tiny Liechtenstein. So don’t go crowning Mikaela just yet — long way to go.
Mens side of the field, on the other hand, they may have already engraved Marcel Hirscher’s name on the globe. Yes, he’s back in 14th place coming back from a broken ankle of all things, but he won’t be there long. He blistered the field in giant slalom competition this weekend. Add in the fact that Hirscher’s top technical competition, German Felix Neureuther is on the sidelines, and I just don’t see much standing in his way.
Another back-from-injury bright spot is the return of Aksel Lund Svindal. I was obviously in error recently when I said his best days are behind him. Well perhaps they are, but the present ain’t too shabby. That’s Svindal in the photo above, claiming the top spot in this weekend’s Birds of Prey downhill. He’s simply a joy to watch, and we’ll selfishly watch Aksel as long as he’ll race.
Norse teammate Kjetil Jansrud leads the mens overall and is skiing well, as he often does early season. He also has a bad habit of seeing diminishing returns as the season progresses, and for a long time was routinely disappointing in Olympic and World Championship competition. But he ripped Sochi extremely well, and recently did very well at the St. Moritz championship. So perhaps Jansrud is still a skier on the rise.
Veith and Ligety? Well let’s just say that these two are coming back from injuries that would still have mortals moaning and groaning, if not crippled. I think Ted will catch some podiums here and there, but regret to say it appears his days of GS domination are in the rear view. He’s still a damn good skier and can win at any time. It’s kind of heartbreaking to watch Anna right now, recalling when she was the top dog on the ladies’ side. Let’s hope for continued recovery and improvement.
Which brings us to Lindsey. I’m going to say that she was rusty, and the fact that it was in Lake Lindsey is irrelevant. She’s also coming back from nasty nasty injuries and multiple surgeries. I think she may need a couple more events to shake out the kinks, and then we’ll see a return to the podium.
The gals head to St. Moritz for speed events and a combined, while the men get technical in Val d’Isere. Tina Weirather defends the super G, and Henrik Kristoffersen defends the slalom.