Americans end Alpine world championships with 5 medals
AP Sports Writer
BEAVER CREEK — Bode Miller crashing and slicing his leg in what possibly could be his last race. Lindsey Vonn breaking into tears with all the pressure weighing on her. Ted Ligety and Mikaela Shiffrin coming through with gold medals as expected.
This was a wild world championships for the Americans, featuring wipeouts, wounds and even some weeping.
In the end, the United States produced five medals, tying its second-best showing at worlds. That was still way behind Austria, which finished with nine.
Austria, the powerhouse of Alpine skiing, just had that kind of championships — the kind the Americans were envisioning, especially with a home-snow advantage.
“We always believe we can be better,” said Luke Bodensteiner, executive vice president of athletics for the U.S. Ski Team. “We leave here knowing we still have work to do and objectives that are higher, leading into 2018 (Winter Olympics in South Korea). But we have a good team, and we have a lot of talent that’s coming up.”
Like Travis Ganong, who earned a silver medal in the downhill. He’s steadily progressed over the last 12 months — from fifth at the Sochi Games to his first World Cup win in December and now this, a podium finish at worlds.
But some of the biggest names didn’t exactly have the performances they were picturing.
Miller was a question mark heading into these championships because of a surgically repaired back. He gave it a go, though, and had a horrific super-G wipeout in which he severed his right hamstring tendon. He had surgery immediately after the race, ending the championships for the six-time Olympic medalist. Miller’s on the fence about whether he will retire.
“Maybe it is the last we’ve seen of him going fast on skis,” team president and CEO Tiger Shaw said. “But then again, Bode is Bode. Kitzbuehel is still out there.”
Vonn entered these worlds fresh off becoming the all-time winningest female skier on the World Cup circuit. The expectations were enormous, given she’s from nearby Vail. She left with only a bronze super-G medal, not exactly the color she anticipated.
One of the indelible moments was Vonn sobbing after failing to finish the slalom portion of the Alpine combined, the disappointment overwhelming her.
A few days later — and with boyfriend Tiger Woods watching — Vonn turned in a fast final run of the giant slalom. No medal, still a solid run. Plus, a chance at this — one last wave and smile to the adoring crowd.
“Who else can go that fast after not racing GS for two years?” Shaw said. “Only Lindsey.”
Vonn never felt comfortable on this course, which was icy and bothered her surgically repaired right knee. She’s had this competition marked on her calendar ever since a second knee surgery ended her hopes of being back in time for the Sochi Games last February. She was treating this event like the Olympics she didn’t get to attend.
“Of course, it’s extremely disappointing,” Vonn said. “I’ve had a lot invested in these two weeks.”
This was a rough worlds for Julia Mancuso, who always seems to raise her game at major competitions. Just not here.
Ligety made history in Beaver Creek, becoming the first man to win three straight world giant slalom titles. He also captured bronze in the Alpine combined.
Then there’s Shiffrin, who hardly seems daunted by the big stage, even napping in a snow bank before her winning slalom run. The teenager from Eagle-Vail recovered from a slow start to defend her slalom title — and then didn’t know how to celebrate.
“I’m not that great at showing my emotions,” she said. “Guess I have to work on that.”
But the stars of the championships were Slovenia’s Tina Maze (two golds, one silver) and, of course, the Austrians, led by Anna Fenninger and Marcel Hirscher with three medals each.
It’s not as though this U.S. team is getting any younger. Miller could step away any time, and Vonn, Ligety and Mancuso have all turned 30.
Some big ski boots to fill down the road.
“We hope there are young athletes inspired by these moments, inspired by the type of success that Bode, Ted, Lindsey, Mikaela, Travis, Julia have had,” Shaw said. “We need to have a good team, because of depth, not because we get lucky with one superstar.”
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