Stiegler, Cochran fare well in Finland
U.S. Ski Team alpine athletes are back in Dollarado this week, training at Keystone and Copper Mountain before the World Cup swings into continuous action over Thanksgiving weekend with the women in Aspen and the men running the first speed events of the new season in the Canadian Rockies.
Meanwhile, the cross-country team shifts back into gear with races Saturday and Sunday in Gallivare, Sweden.
The alpine World Cup finally got rolling last weekend two weeks after rain and toasty temps in central Europe forced cancellation of the annual opening giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria. But they had to go north of the Arctic Circle – or, as they say over there, the Polar Circle – for the races in the resort town of Levi, Finland.
Park City Winter School alum Resi Stiegler out-battled tricky conditions Saturday to put up the fourth-fastest second run and jump to 10th place while Austrian women swept the top three spots. Marlies Schild collected the seventh win of her career. American (and new Park City homeowner) Lindsey Kildow crashed in the first run and Sterling Grant, the promising NorAm slalom champ from Wisconsin, didn’t qualify for the second run.
Sunday, Jimmy Cochran – who moved from Vermont to Park City during the summer for increased training opportunities – was the lone Yank to make the second run. He crackled through the final run with the fifth-fastest time, enabling him to jump from 28th to 15th overall, matching the best slalom result of his career. Bode Miller and Ted Ligety of Park City plus 2002 Olympian Tom Rothrock didn’t make the top-30 cut for a second run.
Greg Needell, U.S. men’s coach, conceded it was disappointing that Ligety and Miller didn’t get through the course faster. However, Needell still was pleased with Cochran’s performance and Ligety’s aggressive skiing despite the obvious problems of a broken index finger, which presented a problem in planting his right ski pole. And the plan is that Ligety will be healthier the next time he runs – during the VISA Birds of prey races Nov. 30-Dec. 3 at Beaver Creek, Colo.
"Jimmy had an excellent second run; it was his best run of World Cup slalom, no question, and he’s clearly poised to have a great year in slalom. This isn’t really his kind of hill because he’s much better on the pitches than the flat and there’s a lot of flat here…but he’s so in-balance and it’s a great start for him," Needell said.
"Bode just looked a little uncomfortable on his run and ‘Rotty’ gave away a lot of time on the flat up top…and Ted was attacking – he’s always attacking – but went out on a right-footed turn, on a fall-away on a roll, and not being able to pole-plant effectively – and not use it to recover, cost him. But he was going, as always. He went out and then got back in…but it chewed up a lot of time. Still, I thought he did a good job."
The previous day, Stiegler was the American bright light, despite the fog hovering over the course, about 100 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Said Head Coach Patrick Riml, "I’m pleased; we’re on the right track and the girls know now there’s no reason they can’t be up there. Resi and Lindsey showed they’ve got the speed to be on a podium in slalom."
Stiegler rebounded nicely from couple of injuries last month when she hit a giant slalom gate with her hand, injuring a wrist, and then rolled an ankle in more training. She stayed in Europe and took some down time while the rest of the Ski Team came home, so she was ready to go when the season opened.
"Resi was a little passive on the first run – the first of the season, sometimes it’s tough to get let it rip, but she was charging on that second run. Lindsey was leading the split when she came into the breakover and the steep part, and she went through the first few gates fine…but then she got thrown off and went out. But those two have got the speed and, like I said, they’re ready to be on the podium in slalom," Riml said.
"A top-10 for Resi is a really good start for the season. Sterling skied the pitch very well, and she’ll approach things a little differently in Aspen."
The women run a GS on the 25th with Parkite Megan McJames, the NorAm overall, giant slalom and super-G champion from a year ago, set to get into her first World Cup race; and then a slalom on the 26th in Aspen while the men race downhill and then super-G in their annual trip to Lake Louise. Then the men head to Beaver Creek for a downhill, super-combined (one run of SH and one of slalom), GS and a traditional, two-run slalom, Nov. 30-Dec. 3 while the women run two DHs and a super-G in Lake Louise Dec. 1-3 before the World Cp tour heads back to Europe.
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