Vail Daily’s Chris Freud: U.S. men’s ski team enters seasons with questions
VAIL — When it comes to the U.S. men’s ski team and the upcoming season, is the glass half empty or half full?
Hard to tell.
The red-white-and-blue guys have the potential to have a great season with World Cup wins and Olympic medals or they may fall into a black hole.
Can Ted Ligety come back from two injury-marred seasons to resume his role as “Mr. GS?” Are Travis Ganong and Steven Nyman capable of popping it in the World Cup downhills? Do we just pencil in Andrew Weibrecht for another Olympic medal in super-G?
Like sands through the hour glass…
Ligety, 32, has not won a World Cup race in a little more than two years, a weird sentence to type.
Yep, one has to go back to the 2015-16 opener in Soelden, Austria, for his last win, a giant slalom. Knee and back injuries have sidelined him.
Of course, if you don’t get hurt in World Cup skiing, you aren’t really trying. But when do injuries become a factor as a tech skier ages? “Older” speedsters can get better as they age. Tech? Not so much.
This is the Ted dilemma as the GS season opens at Beaver Creek next week
Next week’s FIS Birds of Prey races in Beaver Creek and, in particular, the Sunday, Dec. 3 GS could be important signs.
Yes, Ligety’s from Park City, Utah, but Beaver Creek is his home hill. He has six career wins here, the most of any active World Cup skier. During his last full healthy season, 2014-15, his two GS wins came … at Beaver Creek — the regular Birds of Prey stop and the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
Despite the worries about his health, there is something to be said for Ligety’s ability to rise to the moment.
He’s the three-time defending Worlds GS champ. His 2013 Championships performance was one for the ages with gold in super-G, combined and GS. He’s also the defending Olympic GS champion.
Admittedly, we root for Ted, but this is a season in which he must prove himself again.
GANONG AND NYMAN
In the build-up to the 2015 Championships, Ganong really seemed to be on track to be the ever-elusive “Next Great American Downhiller.”
The Northern Californian was stringing together top-10 finishes consistently and won in Santa Caterina, Italy, two months before Beaver Creek 2015.
He earned a Champs silver medal, and seemed set to take off. It hasn’t happened … yet.
We have to keep reminding ourselves that he’s just 29, young for a downhiller. (Tech skiers need agility, which decreases with age. Downhillers need experience, which comes with age.).
Ganong got his second World Cup win in Garmisch, Germany, last winter. That’s a big win on an iconic course. We’re hoping more follow in 2017-18.
While Ganong won in Garmisch, Nyman’s career almost came to an end there. He tore three ligaments in his left knee in January.
The Provo, Utah, native has understandably been behind in preseason training. He wasn’t sure he was going to be racing this weekend up in Lake Louise, Alberta, and participated in training on Friday, so it seems he’s a go for today.
In what is likely his last hurrah as far as the Olympics go, Nyman, 35, is still capable of World Cup podiums.
Yes, it’s been 10 years since Weibrecht had his wild ride in the 2007 Birds of Prey downhill. He started in the No. 53 bib, careening down the course, finishing 10th.
While a World Cup podium was elusive for “The War Horse,” until the 2015 Birds of Prey super-G (third), he’s medaled twice at the Olympics — third in super-G in 2010; second in the same discipline in 2014.
It’s an Olympic year. Why not?
Weibrecht was relatively healthy last season, but never quite got untracked.
He’s another question to be answered as the U.S. men’s ski team heads into the season.
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