U.S. Ski Team FIS World Championship roster announced | SummitDaily.com

U.S. Ski Team FIS World Championship roster announced

Sebastian Foltz
sfoltz@summitdaily.com

The U.S. Ski Team looks like it will be bringing one of the best and, perhaps more important, healthiest squads it's had in recent memory to compete in the 2015 FIS Alpine World Championships, which get underway at Beaver Creek Feb. 2-15.

The team announced its full World Championship roster Wednesday in a video news conference hosted by NBC Universal.

"I'm very pleased and honored to announce a very strong team," U.S. Alpine team director Patrick Riml said in a post-announcement teleconference. "I know we have a very competitive team in every event."

Headlined by Olympians Lindsey Vonn, Mikaela Shiffrin, Ted Ligety and Julia Mancuso, the roster includes 26 athletes — 14 men and 12 women — with a long list of World Cup wins and Olympic medals among them.

Seven different athletes on the current roster also have podium appearances during the current World Cup season.

Six-time Olympic medalist Bode Miller is expected to make his return to competition after undergoing back surgery last fall. Miller has been back on snow and had hoped to compete in recent World Cup races in Wengen, Switzerland, and Kitzbuhel, Austria. He was able to train and fore-run the courses at both events but did not compete.

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"Bode has a track record and a history. We were very lucky that he's been able to ski," Riml said. "It's awesome for us to have him on the team."

Just how much he will participate remains to be seen and will depend on training leading up to the events. Riml said the decision to hold him out of the two World Cup events was based on where he was in his return to snow.

"It showed he had to get more mileage under his belt," Riml said of Miller's training sessions in Switzerland and Austria.

Riml described the current team as the healthiest it's been for recent major competitions. Miller missed the 2013 World Championships because of injury and had been managing numerous ailments since. Vonn suffered the first of her two recent major knee injuries at the beginning of the 2013 World Championships and missed last February's Olympics in Sochi Russia.

Race starters for each event will not be finalized until the team captains meeting the evening prior to each race. The U.S. can have four athletes compete in each event during the two-week-long competition.

Two of the four spots in each event go to the skiers with the most World Cup podium appearances this season. Podiums are the first factor in any team decision, followed by World Cup overall points.

For women's downhill that means that both Vonn and Mancuso are assured starting spots. Stacy Cook has the same number of podium appearances as Mancuso but fewer overall World Cup points. Cook will likely secure the third downhill spot, while Laurenne Ross of Bend, Oregon, and Glenwood Springs' Alice McKennis will compete for the fourth spot. The same decision will need to be made for super G.

McKennis, like Vonn, is also coming back from a major knee injury and missed out on a chance to compete in Sochi. While she attempted to race last season, McKennis returned to full-time competition this winter.

Based on World Cup results both Ligety and Vail's own Shiffrin will be assured spots in multiple events.

When asked what it means to be competing on her home turf, Shiffrin said, "I'm really excited. I have no idea what to expect."

The 19-year-old phenom is coming off a gold-medal performance in Sochi and is the defending world champion in slalom. She is currently fourth overall in the World Cup standings behind Vonn.

As to whether the team views competing on home turf as a competitive advantage, Shiffrin said, "It just depends upon how each athlete sees it. Some athletes see it as more pressure. I personally think it's a huge advantage … It's a different atmosphere and I feed off that energy."

Olympic gold medalist and Park City, Utah, native Ligety also said it is nice to have such a large-scale event on U.S. soil.

While the U.S. has hosted recent World Cup events, it hasn't hosted a championship since Vail in 1999.

"It's something I've never experienced before, so it's going to be a lot of fun having a big event in the U.S.," Ligety said. He will be defending his triple gold from the 2013 Worlds. Concerning home-field advantage, he said, "It's always nice to take the Euros out of their element a little bit and have them living in their duffle bags for a couple of weeks as opposed to always being the North Americans."