Sunday, February 20, 2011

Final World Championship Thoughts

Here are some random final thoughts about the 2011 Alpine Skiing World Championships.

Best Post-Race Celebration: Tie between Tina Maze (Slovenia) and Didier Cuche (Switzerland). When Maze realized that she won the gold medal in the giant slalom, she did a roundoff. It was especially impressive because she was wearing heavy ski boots. Cuche is a real showman and has a special ritual that he performs after every race. He loosens one ski, kicks it into the air so that it flips a couple of times, then catches it with one hand.

Best Trick Skiing: Bode Miller of the USA in the men's Super-G event. About halfway down the course he hit a gate, which knocked one of his poles out of his hand. Up until he lost his pole, he had the fastest run. Even after losing his pole, he had the fastest split times until the final one, when he had to make a big turn toward the finish area. He lost his momentum on that turn, but still did well enough to finish 12th. Miller skied better with one pole than most people do with two.

It's a Family Affair: There are several sets of siblings on various ski teams. Some of them competed in Garmisch, while others didn't make the team. Here are some sets of siblings: Matteo and Francesca Marsaglia (Italy), Maria and Suzanne Riesch (Germany), Mariles and Bernadette Schild (Austria) Manfred and Manuela Moelgg (Italy), Marc and Sandra Gini (Switzerland), Christian, Macarena, and Maria-Belen Simarni Birkner (Argentina), Britt and Michael Janyk (Canada), Elizabeth and Stefan Goergl (Austria), Lena and Katarina Duerr (Germany), and Marc and Dominique Gisin (Switzerland). The Gisins have a 17-year-old sister named Michelle who we may see on the Swiss team in the near future. World Cup overall leader Ivica Kostelic of Croatia is coached by his father. His sister Janica was one of the greatest skiers of all time.

The Odd Couple: Christof Innerhofer of Italy and his teammate Peter Fill. Innerhofer and Fill are best friends and often share a room while on the road. Innerhofer describes himself as an extrovert and the one with the messy side of the room. Fill is an introvert and keeps his side of the room clean. He'll often clean Innerhofer's part of the room too. Innerhofer describes Fill as "a good wife." Move over, Oscar and Felix!

Biggest Whiner: Lindsey Vonn of the USA. Before the championships even started, she complained about the course being too fast, icy, and bumpy. Vonn went so far as to say that the Kandahar course was unsafe and posted her complaint on her Facebook page. Her comments practically went viral on the Internet and newspapers around the world. She said that the International Skiing Federation (FIS) did a poor job preparing the course and had no consideration for skier safety. The Austrian and German newspapers had a field day with Vonn's complaints and her fans who wanted her to encourage the other athletes boycott the championships. The Austrian women and Garmisch native Maria Riesch (the overall World Cup leader this season) said that the course was challenging but fine. The Austrians had a point because they won 3 out of 4 races on that course (I'm including the downhill portion of the super combined here). Riesch also earned two bronze medals on it. Even men's combined champion Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway said that world class skiers should be able to handle any course. Despite Vonn's complaints about how bad the course was, she still opted to race on it and earned a silver medal in the downhill event. So it seems like all of that whining about the course was done to create drama, which Vonn and her husband/coach also did at the 2010 Olympics.

The Mighty Austrians: Before the championships, four Austrian skiing stars were injured severely enough to miss the championships. Speed specialists Hans Grugger, Mario Scheiber, and Georg Streitberger, plus slalom specialist Marcel Hirscher all got injured and will miss the rest of the season. Super-G silver medalist Hannes Reichelt hurt himself in training for the giant slalom and Benjamin Raich tore knee ligaments during a fall in the team competition. A lesser team would be devastated, and possibly wouldn't even be able to field a team, but Austria is at the top of the medal table. The Austrians are so strong that they are almost interchangeable. The "depleted" Austrian men earned two individual medals and contributed to the team silver.

Say Hello to Some Future Stars: Anna Fenninger of Austria is one of the young skiers who achieved her junior potential with a gold medal in the combined event. Lara Gut of Switzerland had 4th place finishes in the Super-G and downhill races. She is only 19 and has a bright future now that she has recovered from an injury. Lotte Smithest Sejersted of Norway showed that she will be a contender soon when she had the best second downhill training run. She won the junior world downhill championship earlier this month.  Emilie Wiekstroem of Sweden is another promising young skier and is being touted as a replacement for superstar teammate Anja Paerson. Frederica Brignone, another junior world champion, won a silver medal in the giant slalom. On the men's side Nolan Kasper of the USA could be a medal challenger in the slalom very soon. Bjorn Sieber and Joachim Puchner are young Austrians who also have star potential. They both got to compete in Garmisch due to injuries to their teammates and performed creditably. Justin Murisier of Switzeland also showed some promise. Another skier to watch in the near future is Paolo Pangrazzi of Italy, who was 6th in the combined.

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Goodbye: Michael Walchhofer of Austria announced that this season would be his last back in the fall. Garmisch was the last world championship event for the 35-year-old. Others for whom 2011 could be their last world championship include: Patrick Jaerbyn of Sweden (41 years young!), Didier Cuche of Switzerland, Bode Miller of the USA, Kalle Pallander of Finland, Urs Imboden of Moldova, Mario Mott  and Benjamin Raich of Austria. On the women's side, Anja Paerson of Sweden hinted at retirement when she was asked about going for a record-tying 20th medal in World Championship and Olympic competition and said that she wasn't planning on it. She already has the women's record with 19--17 individual and 2 team medals. Team USA member Sarah Schleper and Tania Poutiainen of Finland are both over 30, though Poutiainen shows no signs of slowing down with age.

Final Medal Count:
Austria: 8  4 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze
Italy: 6  1 gold, 2 silver, 3 bronze
France: 4  2 gold, 1 silver, 1 bronze
Sweden: 4  1 silver, 3 bronze
USA: 3  1 gold, 2 silver
Germany: 2  2 bronze
Slovenia: 2  1 gold, 1 silver
Canada: 1  1 gold
Croatia: 1  1 bronze
Norway: 1  1 gold
Switzerland: 1  1 silver

Multiple Medalists:
Christof Innerhofer, Italy:  gold in Super-G, silver in combined, bronze in downhill
Elizabeth Goergl, Austria: gold in Super-G and downhill
Tina Maze, Slovenia: gold in giant slalom, silver in combined
Anja Paerson, Sweden: bronze in combined and  team competition
Cyprien Richard, France: gold in team competition, silver in giant slalom
Marlies Schild, Austria: gold in slalom, silver in team competition
Tessa Worley, France: gold in team competition, bronze in giant slalom
Maria Riesch, Germany: bronze in Super-G and downhill
Anna Fenninger, Austria: gold in combined, silver in team competition
Marie Peitilae-Holmner, Sweden: bronze in slalom and team competition

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