Thursday, January 3, 2013

Mid-Season Report Card--Men

The 2012-13 men's ski season started on a sad note with the death of young Austrian skier Bjoern Sieber just before the season opener in Soelden. Here are the men who both impressed and disappointed me as the season approaches its midpoint. As with the women, the skiers are listed in alphabetical order.

1. Travis Ganong (USA): After a slow start this season, Travis has started to improve, with top-10 finishes in his last two races. Out of the men on the US speed team, Travis seems to be the most consistent, scoring points in 4 out of his 7 races this season. I expect that Travis will break into the top 5 very soon.

2. Werner Heel (Italy): Werner is having his best season on the World Cup and is currently ranked 10th overall. He is currently ranked 11th in downhill and 3rd in Super-G. In his 7 races this season, Werner has one 3rd place, two 5th places, and two 6th places.

3. Ted Ligety (USA): Ted has always been a great giant slalom skier. But this season he is beating his competition by huge margins in that discipline. He has also improved a lot in Super-G and is 6th ranked in that event and 12th in slalom. Ted has 2 4th place finishes in Super-G and is a surprise 3rd in the overall standings.

4. Matteo Marsaglia (Italy): Matteo's best event is Super-G and he is currently ranked 2nd in it. He has come a long way from last season, when he was ranked 16th in Super-G. In his three Super-G races this season, he has one win, one 2nd place, and one 9th place.

5. Matthias Mayer (Austria): This young Austrian skier is only 22 and already ranked 5th in Super-G. Matthias has scored points in 5 out of his 7 races, including two 6th places and a 7th place in Super-G. He is definitely one to watch and should hit his physical peak as some of his older teammates get set to retire.

6. Manfred Moelgg (Italy): Manfred started strong with a 2nd place finish in the opening giant slalom in Soelden. In his 7 races this season, he has 4 top-5 finishes. He is also ranked 7th overall this season.

7. Felix Neureuther (Germany): For the past several seasons, Felix has been one of the world's top slalom skiers. But this season he has really improved in giant slalom. He is currently ranked 4th overall,  2nd in slalom, and 7th in giant slalom. His previous best ranking in giant slalom was 29th in 2010-11. Felix has been 7th place or better in 6 out of his 7 races this season. He has 3 podium finishes: a win at the Munich City Event and two 2nd places.

8. Dominik Paris (Italy): Dominik is the fourth Italian on my list. He has always been good in training, but never seemed to be able to have a good performance on race day. But this year he has finally broken through that mental barrier and is currently ranked 2nd in the downhill standings. He has a win, a 5th place, an 8th place, and a 15th place in downhill this season. In addition, he has a top-15 finish in one Super-G race. Dominik is only 23 and looks to be a star for the Italian team in downhill.

9. Alexis Pinturault (France): Alexis still needs to work on his consistency, but he is only 21. He is ranked 8th overall, which is his best ranking in his young career. He is also 4th ranked in slalom and 9th in giant slalom. Out of the 6 races that he finished (he has 2 DNFs), he has one 1st place, one 3rd place, one 5th place, and one 6th place. Alexis is no longer the rising star of the French technical team; he is the star.

10. Aksel Lund Svindal (Norway): Aksel is ranked 1st overall, in downhill, and in Super-G. In addition, he is one of only two men who have points in every discipline this season (the other is Ivica Kostelic). He has finished 11 out of the 12 races he started this season and placed in the top 10 in all of them. Aksel has has 6 podium finishes: three wins, two 2nd places, and 1 third place. The way Aksel is skiing this season, he looks like a sure bet to win his 3rd overall title.


1. Swiss Speed Team: Didier Defago, Carlo Janka, Silvan Zurbriggen, and the rest of the Swiss speed team have been a big bust this season. Janka is taking time off to regroup and see if he can find his mojo. With Didier Cuche retired and Beat Feuz out this season with an injury, it was apparent that those two were the consistent workhorses of the Swiss team. There does not seem to be much promising young talent on the horizon for the Swiss and their veterans, with the exception of Janka, are getting toward retirement age.

2. Austrian Speed Team: Austria only has one win in a speed event this season. Hannes Reichelt tied with Dominik Paris in Bormio last week. Klaus Kroell, last season's downhill champion, had his best finish in Bormio in 4th place. Max Franz gets a pass because he is injured, but Joachim Puchner is not performing up to his earlier potential. Romed Baumann is having another less-than-stellar season. The bright spots for the Austrian Power Team are Reichelt and young Matthias Mayer.

Mid-Season Report Card--Women

I have had a bad case of writer's block since running the Munich Marathon. I could have written about all of my workouts, but that would get boring after a while. With the World Cup ski season being close to halfway over, and a new year beginning, I thought this would be a good time to share 10 skiers who have impressed  me so far this season. The order is alphabetical, not in order of being impressive. I am also including those who have had disappointing performances, at least from my subjective viewpoint.


1. Chemmy Alcott (Great Britain): Chemmy missed the last two seasons due to a broken leg. During that time she worked as an excellent commentator on Eurosport UK. Anyway, Chemmy made her comeback this season in Lake Louise, the place where she broke her leg in 2010. She has only scored points in 2 out of her 8 races this season (skiers in the top 30 get points), and she is near the bottom of the standings in total points. But her determination to come back and compete at a world class level is incredible.

2. Anna Fenninger (Austria): Out of the 12 races that Anna has been in, she has had 3 podiums, 6 top 5, and 8 top 10 finishes. She has been on the podium twice in giant slalom and once in Super-G. Anna is also 4th in the overall standings.

3. Christina Geiger (Germany): Christina is a very consistent performer for the German women's slalom team. In her 4 slalom starts this season, she has been in the top 15 three times, with a 6th place in Semmering her best result this season. Christina's goals for this season are more top-10 places.

4. Lara Gut (Switzerland): Lara is ranked 8th overall and is a real all-arounder. She has 4 top 5 finishes in 12 races: 2 in giant slalom, 1 in downhill (a win), and 1 in super-combined. Even though she doesn't compete in slalom, she is strong in her other events. Lara is ranked 3rd in downhill, 10th in giant slalom, 11th in Super-G, and 5th in super-combined.

5. Maria Hoefl-Riesch (Germany): Maria is currently ranked 2nd overall and is a true all-arounder. She is the only woman who is ranked in the top 10 in every event. Maria is ranked 3rd in slalom, 4th in downhill, Super-G, and super-combined, and 8th in giant slalom. Maria is one of only three women who have points in every discipline this season. The others are Julia Mancuso and Tina Maze.

6. Wendy Holdener (Switzerland): Wendy is only 19 and is already making her mark as one to watch in the slalom event. She has scored points in all four of her slalom races this season and has finished in the top 10 in her last two races. Wendy seems to be getting better and better with each race. I wouldn't be surprised if she had a top 5, or even a podium finish, in slalom this season.

7. Tina Maze (Slovenia): Tina is leading the overall standings by 492 points over second place Maria Hoefl-Riesch. Her performances in every discipline have been "a-MAZE-ing." Tina set a pre-Christmas break record of 999 points and is on track to get 2000. She has been averaging 67 points per race and shows no signs of slowing down. Tina is ranked 1st in slalom, giant slalom, and combined, 3rd in Super-G, and 17th in downhill. Out of 17 races, Tina has been on the podium in 12, with 5 wins, 3 second places, and 4 third place finishes. If she ends up winning the overall title, she will be the first skier from Slovenia to win it.

8. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA): Mikaela is only 17 and already has two podium finishes in slalom this season, including one win. In the 7  slalom and giant slalom races that she finished, she placed in the top 10 in all of them. Mikaela still needs to work on her consistency (she had 4 DNFs this season), but she is looking like she will be a real force for many years as long as she stays healthy.

9. Veronika Velez-Zuzulova (Slovakia): Veronika has established herself as a star in slalom. She is ranked 2nd in that discipline this season. In her 5 slalom races this season she has 4 top-10 finishes including two wins. She has come on very strong, winning the last two slalom races (the City Event in Munich, which she won, counts as a slalom race). I would not be surprised at all if Veronika has more podium finishes this season.

10. Kathrin Zettel (Austria): The Austrian technical specialist is having a great season. She is currently 3rd in the overall standings, 2nd in giant slalom, and 7th in slalom. In the 10 races that she has completed, she has 7 podium places (1 win, four 2nd places, one 3rd place) and was in the top 10 in the other three.


1. Frederica Brignone (Italy): Frederica was a rising star in giant slalom after winning the silver medal in that event at the 2011 World  Championships. She had a good season last year. But this season she has failed to finish or qualify for the second run in a giant slalom race. Her only points came in the super-combined event in St. Moritz.

2. Lena Duerr (Germany): After showing a lot of potential last year, Lena failed to qualify for the second round in 4 out of her 11 races. She only has two top-10 results. Maybe as the season goes on she will become more consistent.

3. Elisabeth Goergl (Austria): In 12 races this season, Elisabeth has had only 3 top 10 finishes. She has performed below expectations. Last year she was ranked 6th overall, while she is 20th this season.