The 2011/12 World Cup skiing season is coming to a close. The finals start with downhill training on Monday. It has been a long season. This post and the next one will be about the skiers who impressed me this season. I'll start with the women and the next post will be the men. The order will be alphabetical rather than by how much I was impressed by them. For the most part, I was impressed by the skiers' performances. But in a couple of cases it was their sportsmanship that made them great this season. There were 9 women who made my list this season:
Stacey Cook (USA): Stacey has been very consistent in the downhill event. It's only a matter of time before she gets her first World Cup podium. My son met her at the races in Garmisch last month and said that she was one of the two friendliest women (the other was Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg).
Lena Duerr (Germany): She has had several good results in technical races this season. She tends to have one great run and one not-so-good run. When Lena gets more consistent and able to put two good runs together, she will be a contender for a Crystal Globe. Lena is part of the young German squad that will only get better with age and experience.
Anna Fenninger (Austria): Anna is primarily known as a speed specialist. But she was one of only five women who scored points in all 5 Alpine disciplines this season. She is still young and has a bright future ahead of her. She could be a real contender for the overall Crystal Globe.
Marie-Michele Gagnon (Canada): Mitch, as she is called, kept getting better and better as the season progressed. If she continues to ski so well, she will earn her first World Cup podium spot very soon. It's great to see a skier who's not from a large team do well in World Cup competition. Mitch is also very young and has a lot of star potential in the technical events.
Michaela Kirchgasser (Austria): Michaela had her best season this year, including a slalom win. Her win, like those of her teammate Marlies Schild, was very decisive. Michaela has really improved a lot and is a steady performer for the Austria Power Team.
Daniela Merighetti (Italy): Daniela showed that her victory in Cortina wasn't a fluke with her close 3rd place finish in Bansko. What really impressed me about Daniela though was her attitude toward her team. When she was asked how she would celebrate her win, she said that she wanted to celebrate with her team. It sounds like the Italian ladies are a very close-knit group.
Marlies Schild (Austria): Marlies is almost 32 and shows no signs of slowing down. Slalom is a discipline that is won by hundredths of a second. Marlies won several races this year by over a second. She is set to tie, or even break, Vreni Schneider's record for the most slalom wins this season. Marlies keeps on winning, yet she is a very humble champion. On the rare occasions when someone does beat her, she gives the winner sincere congratulations.
Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): Mikaela is only 16 and is a real prodigy on skis. When she's on, she's fantastic. She already has a 3rd place this year and a couple of top-10 finishes in slalom. That's amazing for someone in her first year on the World Cup. Like Lena Duerr, she often has problems putting together two good runs. But the consistency will come with experience. She has the potential to become a real superstar in slalom.
Tina Weirather (Liechtenstein): One wouldn't think that a petite skier like Tina would be a good downhiller. The best downhillers tend to be Amazons like Lindsey Vonn and Maria Hoefl-Riesch. But Tina seemed to have come out of nowhere to become one of the best downhillers this season. Tina also showed in Bansko that she is good in Super-G, placing second to Vonn by only 0.02 seconds. She certainly has the pedigree to be great because her mother is the legendary Hanni Wenzel and her father was also a ski racer. Tina trains with the Swiss team and should get her first victory very soon. She already has several podiums in downhill and Super-G this season.
The Bad Luck Club: The Swiss women have been really riddled with injuries this season. Six of their nine women have had to end the season prematurely because of injuries. I wish all of the Swiss ladies a speedy recovery and hope that they come back strong next season.