World Cup Finals: Top 5 men to watch this week in Aspen
With the season-ending World Cup Finals in Aspen this week, here are five men to watch on Aspen Mountain:
The 28-year-old Austrian continues to dominate the sport like few have. Only two men have won five overall World Cup titles since it began in 1967: Hirscher and fellow Austrian Marc Girardelli, who won his fifth in 1993.
Although, Girardelli only won back-to-back once. Italian Gustav Thoni won four in five seasons (1971-75), but otherwise no man had ever won four consecutive overall titles until Hirscher won his fourth in a row in 2015. He won a fifth in 2016.
Heading into the 2017 finals in Aspen, Hirscher has No. 6 locked up, a number no man has reached. He has an insurmountable lead on Kjetil Jansrud, Henrik Kristoffersen and Alexis Pinturault in the overall standings, and Hirscher will claim his third consecutive (and fourth overall) title in giant slalom and his fourth slalom title in five years.
Hirscher has been nearly unstoppable all winter, highlighted by his World Championships crowns in the slalom and giant slalom in St. Moritz, Switzerland, last month. He has numerous wins in Aspen on the Nor-Am circuit; however, the World Cup men haven’t competed in Aspen since Mario Matt, also of Austria, won a slalom in 2001, six years before Hirscher made his World Cup debut.
The 31-year-old Norwegian only took seventh in the Feb. 26 super-G in his home country, but it was enough to clinch his second globe in the discipline in three years. With only the finals remaining, Kjetil Jansrud’s 365 points in super-G this season won’t be caught by fellow Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, who sits in second with 239 points. Racers can only earn a maximum 100 points for winning.
Jansrud, who is the reigning Olympic gold medalist in super-G, now has three World Cup titles (he won the 2015 downhill title). This year’s downhill globe is still up for grabs – Jansrud holds a 37-point lead over Peter Fill in the discipline standings.
Peter Fill, a 34-year-old from Italy, hopes to retain his downhill title from 2016, but will have to catch the 2015 downhill champ to do it. Kjetil Jansrud’s 37-point cushion is anything but safe; one minor slip is the only thing separating Fill from overcoming Jansrud in the standings.
Fill is something of a journeyman in the sport. He’s a three-time Olympian but never has medaled. In seven World Championship appearances, he only has two medals: a super-G silver in 2009 and a combined bronze in 2011.
He has more World Cup podiums this season than in any previous, including his third career victory Feb. 26 in a super-G in Norway. Fill is fifth in the super-G standings coming into Aspen, with the possibility of finishing as high as second.
Henrik Kristoffersen, a 22-year-old from Norway, is one of the best young talents in the sport and one of the few who might be able to knock Marcel Hirscher off his pedestal, eventually.
Kristoffersen will finish second to Hirscher in the slalom, and has a chance to move from fourth to third in the giant slalom, but won’t catch Alexis Pinturault for second or Hirscher for first. It’s a free for all for the men’s overall behind Hirscher: Kjetil Jansrud, Pinturault and Kristoffersen are within 22 points of each other.
Kristoffersen took second overall last winter and is the reigning slalom champion, until Hirscher officially takes the globe from him in Aspen.
Kristoffersen’s main rise to fame came when he won Olympic bronze in 2014 in slalom to become the youngest men’s alpine medalist in history. He was 19 at the time.
Travis Ganong, a 28-year-old from Truckee, California, has in a way been the saving grace for the American men this season. With Bode Miller’s lawsuit keeping him from skiing and Steven Nyman and Ted Ligety having their seasons end early because of injury, Ganong is about all who is left standing.
He’s not in contention to win any globes, but he has a shot at finishing top five in downhill and top 15 in the overall if things go his way in Aspen.
Ganong will be the American man to watch, with the World Cup men’s downhill making its return to Aspen for the first time since 1995. He only has two World Cup victories to his name, both in downhill. His first came in December 2014 in Italy and his second barely a month ago. His Jan. 27 win in Germany was the first win for an American man since Oct. 25, 2015, the longest drought for the U.S. since 2000.
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A driver looking to squeeze one last four-wheel drive up Aspen Mountain discovered that it’s not the ascent but the descent that poses a challenge.