Worry about Mikaela Shiffrin? Nope. Worry about the U.S. Men’s Ski Team
“Mikaela Shiffrin opens up on recent race struggles.”
Yes, we ran that headline. Let’s clarify something.
Mikaela’s fine. She DNF’d in two races in a row, so some might think the sky is falling. Take a deep breath and remain calm, all.
The first DNF was in a super-G in difficult conditions on Sunday, Jan. 21, in Cortina, Italy. Lindsey Vonn, among many, had trouble with the wind on Sunday. Vonn’s only got 28 career World Cup wins in super-G, so if she’s having problems, well, Shiffrin, with only eight career starts in the discipline, was likely to have issues, too.
That it was her first DNF in speed in 14 starts is actually pretty remarkable. Going into the way-back machine, Vonn DNF’d in two of her first three World Cup speed starts — in Lake Louise, Alberta, no less — in December 2001, and her career turned out pretty decently.
Shiffrin then didn’t finish in giant slalom on Tuesday, Jan. 23, in Kronplatz, Italy. Because it’s a GS, there’s more worry, but it was her first DNF in that discipline in nearly two years — March, 20, 2016, to be precise — so, maybe, not.
Between her two DNFs, Shiffrin has gone 2-5-6-1-1-4-5-1-6-5-2-1-3-1 in GS. She’s entitled to a DNF once in a while. We’ll schedule her next one for 2020.
Another consideration is that with a condensed World Cup schedule to accommodate travel to Pyeongchang, South Korea, and Shiffrin’s addition of speed, she’s been doing a lot of racing.
Shiffrin’s had seven World Cup races just this calendar year, and 13 starts in just a little over a month, dating back to Courcheval, France, on Dec. 19, 2017. When an athlete is going at that pace, there will be a clunker or two.
It’s noteworthy that Shiffrin is not racing in Thursday, Jan. 25’s combined in Lenzerheide, Switzerland. Given Shiffrin’s increasing skills in speed, one would consider having her ski somewhat cautiously in the super-G, staying within 1 second, and then have her mop the field in slalom.
It seems like Team Shiffrin has decided that rest is a good idea. After the combi, there’s GS and slalom this weekend.
Next week is speed in Garmisch, Germany. We’ll go under the assumption that Shiffrin does her business in this weekend’s tech, skips Germany to rest and heads off to South Korea for the Olympics.
All will be fine.
On the other hand
If you want to be worried about something, then we give you the U.S. Men’s Ski Team.
At the beginning of the season, we wrote in this space about how this season could be viewed as the glass half-full or half empty.
It be empty.
The men’s field has competed in 26 of 37 scheduled World Cup races, and the Americans have no podiums.
Nothing. Nada. The inside of a doughnut hole.
This isn’t like saying the U.S. Team is in trouble after the Birds of Prey stop in Beaver Creek during the first weekend of December. Twenty-six races aren’t a small sample size.
Where to start?
• Travis Ganong did his ACL in late December in Bormio, Italy, and is done for the year. But, he really wasn’t skiing well before the injury. His best finish this season was 16th in super-G in Lake Louise.
• Steven Nyman’s knee, injured at Garmisch last season, hobbled his return to snow this year. At 36, the clock is ticking.
• Andrew Weibrecht has finished 21st in super-Gs in Lake Louise and Beaver Creek. Yes, he does have a penchant for popping Olympic medals — bronze in 2010 and silver in 2014, but he doesn’t have a top 10 finish dating back to March 13, 2016.
• Bryce Bennett, 25, has been a nice story with two top 10s in the combined, but when that’s the highlight, it’s a sign of how the Americans are having tough times.
• You hope the magic returns for Ted Ligety, the defending Olympic champion in GS, but the results aren’t there. He’s gone 7-16-5-DNF in the four GS races of the season.
Don’t worry about Mikaela. Worry about this.
Sports Editor Chris Freud can be reached at 970-748-2934, firstname.lastname@example.org and @cfreud.