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.