Monday, March 17, 2008
The U.S. ski team's "Best in the World" slogan was a laughing matter for years on the World Cup circuit. The team took so much criticism after the Turin Olympics that it dropped the slogan.
Maybe it's time to bring it back.
Bode Miller and Lindsey Vonn won overall titles yesterday in Bormio, Italy, for the first American sweep since Phil Mahre and Tamara McKinney 25 years ago. In all, U.S. skiers took home five crystal globes this season to just two for the Austrian "Wunderteam."
"That's what we're about: doing the best we can and showing the world that we're here to win and prove that America is also the land of skiing," said Phil McNichol, the retiring U.S. men's head coach.
Miller also won the super combined crown, Kildow clinched the downhill crystal globe and Ted Ligety took the giant slalom title.
Traditionally, Europeans have dominated World Cup skiing, winning 75 of the 84 men's and women's overall titles handed out since the circuit began in 1966-67.
"It is cool to see us take those globes away from the Europeans once in a while," Miller said after the season ended yesterday with the cancellation of the team event.
Spending six months of the year overseas, Americans have tended to struggle.
"To go on the road and sacrifice everything else in your life to pursue a sport that you love, you need a family that supports you, and that family turns out to be your team, and then you can shine as an individual within that environment," McNichol said. "That's what I've tried to create, that's what Patrick [Riml, the U.S. women's coach] has tried to create, and we've shown we can be successful when we believe in ourselves."
Miller and Vonn won six races each this season, Ligety won two and Marco Sullivan won a downhill in Chamonix, France, for his first World Cup victory.
Also, Julia Mancuso recorded six top-three finishes, Steven Nyman had one runner-up result, Scott Macartney was third in a downhill and Resi Stiegler matched her best career result with a fourth in a slalom before crashing and missing the rest of the season.
"Whether it's Lindsey or whether it's Julia or whether it's Resi or whether it's Stacey or Jimmy or Mac or Sully, or Ted, Bode. We have many athletes and we have a program that knows what it takes and has trained Americans to take an American approach in a foreign land, and this is what dreams are made of," McNichol said. "This is a great story, you can make a movie about it someday."
The movie may not be a hit in Europe, where this season may be remembered more for its horrific crashes. Defending overall winner Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway crashed badly while landing a jump in Beaver Creek, Colo., in November, and missed the rest of the season. Matthias Lanzinger of Austria had his lower left leg amputated last week following a crash in Norway.
Austria's two discipline titles went to Hannes Reichelt in men's Super-G and Marlies Schild in women's slalom. Still, Austria Alpine director Hans Pum was not dismayed.
"We still lead the overall nations standings and the men's and women's team standings," Pum said. "We are the strongest team, but Miller and Vonn are the perfect skiers."
¿ BIATHLON: Magdalena Neuner finished ninth in the season-ending mass start race in Oslo and became the youngest woman to win an overall World Cup title.
The 21-year-old German finished 13 points ahead of Sandrine Bailly of France, who finished sixth in the race and was the only biathlete with a chance to catch Neuner.
Kati Wilhelm, another German, shot clean and won the 12.5-kilometer mass start race in 37 minutes 43.6 seconds.
Neuner also won the mass start title.
Michal Slesingr of the Czech Republic won the men's 15K mass start race, finishing in 39:20.7 with one miss.