Thursday, December 15, 2005

A brief commentary on Bode.
The most recent story in the ski press about defending overall World Cup champion, Bode Miller, is about how the frustration he is experiencing communicating his ideas about reforms to the sport with its organizing body, the FIS.
His ideas include taking another look at what drugs should be legal and illegal, as well as addressing the top-heavy and FIS dictated prize money in the sport. His suggestions, though not outrightly, hint at an athletes union.
The idea is not novel in sport and ski racing could benefit from such organization. If Miller is really serious about it though, he should get some of the other top racers behind him and conduct a constructive conversation with organizers.
Because he is the outspoken athlete, and he's not afraid to speak his mind, he has to be careful. In the past few weeks the media has started using negative description in their stories about Miller. They say he is "lashing out", and describe his semi-tantrum at the finish of a race when officials asked him to walk around fencing to his RV rather than cut straight through.
If Miller wants to affect change he needs to come off as being more positive, and slightly less acerbic.
Part of the fault lies with the media for not fully understanding Miller himself; his style of communication and pattern of thought is different. It shouldn't excuse him from rude comments, but a balance needs to be struck. The media right now is blowing his comments and actions slightly out of proportion.
Our Coverage of ski racing was a topic at our weekly editorial meeting today. The Stowe Reporter has a long history of following ski racing at a local and international level. It is a component of our newspaper that we pride and one that makes us stand out however off-beat some of our readers may find it. We are the official newspaper for the Vermont Alpine Racing Association, and are rekindling a keen eye on the World Cup tour. In addition we are trying to meet the requests of numerous readers to include more stories about snowboarding and cross-country skiing, also popular winter sports in Stowe.
In this week's edition of the Stowe Reporter you'll find stories about Hannah Kearney and Andy Newell of Vermont, who recently posted strong results in World Cup competitions in freestyle skiing and nordic sprinting.
Next week, we'll have coverage of the Grand Prix snowboard events taking place now in Breckenridge, Colo.
Part of the effort this year is to provide readers and fans with a preview of what's going on in each sport leading up to the Olypics in Feb., which the Stowe Reporter will be covering. We want to pay special attention to Vermont athletes who will be competing in Torino, as well as those who have a shot at making the Olympic team.
The opportunity for us to be there amid the 10,000 other members of the media is special and exciting and we look forward to bringing the Games home to Stowe.
When the Games begin our coverage will include weekly features in our print edition along with more frequently posted stories on our website-, just click on the Olympic logo to get them. This blog will be an informal way to share news and stories from Torino and will be updated daily starting Feb. 10, 2006. It can be accessed through our website as you must know because you're here now.
As of next week in our print edition there will be a Vermont Ski Racing cover after the sports section of the paper. In the Sports section you will find news and coverage of the Stowe High School varsity sports teams, and other local sports news. The Vermont Ski Racing section will be devoted to VARA, Eastern Cup, Nor-Am and World Cup skiing. We will also publish articles with "An eye on Torino" in the skiing section.
Story ideas and news tips can be sent to

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Ligety skis Ligety-split
Ask his teammates and they’ll all tell you it’s only a matter of time before 20 year-old Ted Ligety wins a World Cup. He could do it in giant slalom or slalom.
At the season’s opener in Soelden, Austria Ligety won the second run, and in Nor-Ams at Keystone Ligety handily beat Sunday’s winner Georgio Rocca by nearly a second.
Ligety doesn’t care if the course is choppy or the weather is bad, he skis with the same relaxed aggression each time he kicks open the timing wand.
Sunday’s slalom was no exception. In the first run he skied to 12th place. His run was solid, but somewhat reserved. High attrition played to his advantage as lots of men in the top 30 could not solve the course.
It may have been in part due to new rules that have made the distance between gates shorter. The FIS constantly adjusts this variable to keep up with ski technology. Athletes say slalom courses now have less rhythm, with tighter combinations like flushes and hairpin turns to slow them down. Last season, the FIS said slalom racers were carrying up to 65 kilometers per hour in certain World Cup races, which they felt would only spell disaster and result in injuries. In Sunday’s race we may have seen racers adjusting to the new regulations.
Italy’s Giorgio Rocca was not one of them. He skied the first course effortlessly as did Austrian Ben Raich, who took the first-run lead.
In the second run, Frenchman, Stephane Tissot, a racer who has been knocking on success’s door skied the fastest run. He came through the line nearly two seconds ahead of the rest of the field, and stood in the leader’s position until Rocca came down 20 racers later.
Ligety started 19th in the second run.
"First run, I feel like I should've given her a little harder, and second run I let it go and that's how I like to ski. It's a lot more fun when you're letting it hang out there and you can really feel your skis bite and you're not letting 'em break at all."
"It was pretty unbelievable sitting up there [in the finish] and I started to realize, with a few guys left to go, it was gonna be a top-5 finish...and then Benni (Raich) went out," Ligety said. "I thought for sure he'd knock me out, but then he went out as well, so it was just a lot of luck played into me getting a third-place finish today."
Tom Rothrock was 16th while Chip Knight skied out in the second run. Defending World Cup champion Bode Miller skied off course in the first run, then hiked but finished 23 seconds out; Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) skipped the race after breaking his left hand Saturday in giant slalom and had a cast put on his hand.
A year ago, Ligety posted the best result of his career up to that point, finishing 15th in the slalom. Stephan Tissot’s best slalom finish also came last year at Beaver Creek where he finished 10th.
A day after they finished first and second in the VISA Birds of Prey downhill, Miller survived three bobbles to overtake teammate Daron Rahlves for a dramatic giant slalom win in a snowstorm Saturday. Erik Schlopy finished fourth, one-hundredth of a second off the podium even though he broke his hand during the first run after hitting it against the base of a gate.
Dane Spencer turned in a terrific result, coming in 12th. Spencer had struggled throughout the early season with a nagging knee injury, and said he was unsure what he was capable of on the World Cup stage because of it. Just days before he finished well off the pace in the men’s Nor-Ams at Keystone. Visibly satisfied at the finish Spencer is set with confidence for the next giant slalom in Alta Badia on Dec. 18.
Schlopy’s result was also a confidence builder. In 2003 he won a bronze medal at the World Championships giant slalom, and was sixth in last year’s race at Beaver Creek, but has had spotty performances since. Surely, he’ll find his way to the podium this season.
Miller, tied with Finland’s Kalle Pallander for the first run lead, while Rahlves sat in second.
Snow began to drive during the second run, but the course remained in good condition. Some racers said the conditions varied from slick icy surfaces to sections of the course that were chunked out making skiing smooth a trick in flat light.
Rahlves and Schlopy came down and held their positions, as the spectators began to murmur of a 1-2-3 finish for the Americans, but when Pallander came through the line ahead of Schlopy attention quickly refocused on whether Miller would explode or execute.
Miller’s second run was one of the weekend’s highlights. His body and skis did things not even he could describe as he laid everything on the line. He was not skiing for second place again.
"Those of you who know ski racing, you’re not faster if you’re on your ass, but it does add excitement sometimes. I knew I needed to bring a lot of intensity to the second run. I wanted to put down a run that I was really psyched about, so with the fatigue and the snow conditions and all the things kinda going against me, I think I felt like maybe this challenge was more worthy," Miller said. "I like those kinds of challenges. It definitely was worthy of a massive effort. It made it easier for me to dig deep."
When he saw that he had won, Miller laid down in the soft snow at the finish laughing.
He added, "I knew I was gonna have a massive struggle at the bottom. The bottom of this course is usually where you win or lose, so I was literally yelling from about Golden Eagle down, shouting the whole time, full war cries," Miller said.
It was the 20th World Cup win of his career.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Good Morning! It snowed about a foot last night, which should make for an interesting start today. No doubt course workers have been working since the early hours to clear away what snow they can to make the hill as buffed as possible.
The first run is scheduled to start at 11am.
USA's first racer will Be Bode Miller, who drew #7 followed by #12 Daron Rahlves, #22 Dane Spencer, #23 Erik Schlopy, #41 Jimmy Cochran, #51 Chip Knight, #63 Ted Ligety and #54 Jake Zamansky.
Canada's Thomas Grandi, who won back to back World Cups last year wil start first.
Last night at the Inn at Beaver Creek, the U.S. Ski Team threw a small victory celebration and champagne toast. It was exciting for the team because they have claimed victory at home twice in a row, leaving the Austrian's scratching their heads. Head coaches Phil McNichol and John McBride said it was a great start to an Olympic year, and they hoped the team would carry momentum through the World Cups to come.
TV crews with cameras and boom mics swarmed the room picking up Bode and Daron's conversations with friends, and photographers buzzed to capture the scene.
More from the GS - Stay tuned.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Birds of Prey Men's Downhill
Rahlves wins!!
It's not a bad day to beging this blog.
I am sitting at the base of Beaver Creek, where the men's World Cup has stopped for four races, and American Daron Rahlves just posted his first victory in what is sure to be a stellar season for the speed ace. Bode Miller came in second, making for an American one-two.
Yesterday was the Super-g, which many racers said was an unfair race. Visibility was poor because a thick layer of fog hung over the mountain. Most of the racers who did well started early in the pack, while those starting in the late 20s and beyond had difficulty. Seasoned vet, Kjetil Andre Aamodt was one racer who did not complain. Apparently, when asked whether or not he thought the race should have been cancelled he said no. This is ski racing, he said, it's an outdoor sport and dealing with snow and fog is part of the package.
American Daron Rahlves was one of the top-ranked skiers to post a strong finish: fifth place. Overall World Cup Champion, Bode Miller, didn't finish the course.
Today weather again plagued the downhill. Early in the morning a fine crystalline mist fell - not quite snow, not quite rain, and fog rolled in and out. One minute the whole hill was visible and the next it was socked back in. All morning we waited to hear news that the race had been cancelled, but organizers remained faithful that they could pull it off.
The first forerunners came down the course on time. It was clear at the top, but a patch of persistant fog hung over the most difficult part of the course. The first racers punched through it, fearless at about 112 kilometers per hour.
After about five racers, they held the race as more fog rolled in. And the race went on like this for rest of the day. One or two would go, then the race would stop. When the fog cleared they would send as many as they could before it came back. This made the race a tough one to watch, and no doubt a tough one to ski.
Benjamin Raich of Austria was one racer who had to wait about ten minutes before he could climb back into the starting gate. The off and on of a race like this, especially a downhill, is extremely hard for racers to deal with. You could tell that Raich was off from the moment he left the starting gate. He skied rigidly, and his skis were chopping through sections of the course he would otherwise be able to slice through. A dissapointment for him surely.
In fact most of the Austrian team had trouble today. Herman Maier was not on his game. An early mistake on one of the top jumps lead to a series of small errors throughout his run. Andreas Schifferer looked good, but his skis ran slowly across the flats.
Daron's run was by far the best of the day. He ran in a pocket of racers who had particularly good visibility. Some of his teammates at the bottom of the course said when the fog cleared the track may have glazed making it a bit faster. He blasted out of the start like a ball of fire, and skied aggresively through the top section, nailing every turn. He flew off the biggest jump in a tight, compact position, landed and quickly garbbed his tuck again. Through the splits he was ahead each time, and the crowd cheered wildly. When Daron crossed the line and saw he was in first by a reasonable margin, he raised his hands in the air looking out at the crowd soaking in the moment.
Bode two racerd after Daron. He charged out of the start too, and looked, in typical Bode fashion, like he was also on the hunt. As he skied down it looked like he was just holding it together. At times he seemed off balance, or weirdly contorted. He flew off a jump in sketchy style, landing twisted, but somehow he managed to keep it all in the fall line. He was ahead of Daron in two of the splits, but lost two tenths at the bottom and came in second. The crowd went wild again.
Stay tuned for tomorrow's giant slalom.