- Alpine Skiing
14 storylines from Sochi Olympic Alpine competition
The Sochi Winter Olympics presented 10 days of thrilling competition in Alpine skiing. Here is a look back at 14 of the big storylines to play out in the mountains of Rosa Khutor.
Star of the Games
Perhaps no one entered Sochi with more to prove than Slovenia’s Tina Maze. After a record-obliterating 2013 World Cup season, in which she eclipsed every meaningful statistical metric including overall points with 2,414, her pre-Olympic buildup had comparatively been a flop, with just four podiums and one victory. Her Sochi experience could have easily taken a sour turn south after she finished fourth in the super-combined, a medal-miss that left her in tears afterward. But Maze rediscovered her resolve and scored an historic tie for gold in the women’s downhill, and added a second gold in her signature event, the giant slalom. She was the only skier in Sochi to win more than one event.
Embedded video_content_type: Tina Maze wins second gold medal of 2014 Olympics
While Maze was clearly Alpine’s star of the Games, in keeping with Sochi’s penchant for ties – there was shared gold in the women’s downhill and shared bronze in the men’s super-G – we have a 3-way deadlock for silver in the star-turn category.
Kjetil Jansrud emerged as the unexpected star of Team Norway. The 28-year-old strung together the best two weeks of skiing of his career, winning bronze in the downhill, gold in the super-G, and nearly another bronze in the super-combined, where he finished fourth. He did all of this one year after tearing his ACL at the World Championships in Schladming.
Embedded video_content_type: Kjetil Jansrud wins men's super-G gold
After a disappointing Olympic debut in 2010, when she left Vancouver without a medal, Anna Fenninger of Austria fulfilled her great promise with a gold medal in the women’s super-G and a silver medal in the giant slalom. She did so with one of the coolest-looking race helmets at the Games, and raised tons of awareness for the plight of endangered cheetahs.
Embedded video_content_type: Fenninger leaves field in her ‘cheetah dust’
And who could leave Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch off any list of top performers. The overall World Cup leader showcased her spectacular all-around skills by winning a second straight gold medal in the women’s super-combined, joining Janica Kostelic of Croatia (combined, 2002-06), Deborah Compagnoni of Italy (giant slalom, 1994-98) and Katja Seizinger of Germany (downhill, 1994-98) as the only women to repeat as Olympic champions. Hoefl-Riesch added a silver medal, the fourth medal of her career, in the super-G.
Embedded video_content_type: Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch gold again
Sandro Viletta’s gold in the men’s super-combined for Switzerland was an absolute stunner. The 28-year-old has won only one World Cup race in his career, a super-G in Beaver Creek, Colo., in December 2011. His best super-combined result came in Wengen, Switzerland, last month when he was fourth. After finishing 14th in the downhill run, he found the perfect line in deteriorating slalom conditions and blistered into the lead and history books. “I didn’t expect to win,” Viletta said afterward, “but in super-combined ... you never know what is possible.”
Embedded video_content_type: Sandro Viletta takes surprising gold in super combined
Feel good story
Perhaps no medalist in Sochi faced longer odds than American Andrew Weibrecht. After his surprising bronze medal in super-G in Vancouver, he was consumed by injuries – in 2010 it was right shoulder and left ankle; in 2011 it was his left shoulder; in 2012 he had right ankle reconstruction; and in 2013 more ankle issues – hurt so often that he lost his sponsors and was dropped to the U.S. “B” team, meaning he had to pay his own way for training and to races. Yet the 27-year-old found his way back on to the Olympic team, and made the most of his second chance. Despite a crummy starting bib (29), Weibrecht benefited from a course report by teammate Bode Miller, who also lent him a pair of his skis for the race, and then sped past Miller into silver-medal position in the super-G. Now the man who in 95 career World Cup races has never finished higher than ninth, has two Olympic medals, same as U.S. skiing icons Lindsey Vonn and Picabo Street.
Embedded video_content_type: Andrew Weibrecht wins surprising silver in men's super-G
The women’s downhill produced the first tie for gold in the history of Olympic Alpine racing when Dominique Gisin of Switzerland and Tina Mazeof Slovenia finished with identical times of 1:41.57. Gisin, who became her country’s first Olympic downhill champion in 30 years, set the early time standard from start Bib 8 and watched a legion of contenders come down the Rosa Khutor slower. Then came Maze with Bib 21, and she continued to build on Gisin’s time intervals, from 0.02 ahead at the first time check, up to 0.09 at the second, ahead 0.13 at third, and building to 0.38 at the fourth. When she crossed, the clock showed 0.00 indicating a tie. The previous closest finish at the Games came in Nagano in 1998 when Picabo Street edged Austria’s Michaela Dorfmeister by .01 for super-G gold.
Embedded video_content_type: Sochi women's downhill: Gold medal mashup
In the men’s giant slalom, Germany’s Stefan Luitz appeared to have put himself in striking distance of American Ted Ligety – something no other skier managed to do – in the first run of the men’s giant slalom. But in the closing moments, the 21-year-old straddled the final gate with his right ski just feet from the finish line, resulting in a disqualification. Afterward, only one thought crossed his mind. "You idiot," he said.
Embedded video_content_type: Stefan Luitz's heartbreaking disqualification in giant slalom
Most memorable moment
Through the years, American Bode Miller has proclaimed his main motivation to be the ethereal quality of his performances rather than the medals they did or did not yield. But in Sochi, perhaps sensing his own athletic mortality at age 36 and having missed a golden opportunity – literally – when he finished 8th in the downhill as an overwhelming favorite, that changed. After winning bronze in the super-G, the sixth medal of his storied career, the usually-stoic Miller cried when asked in an interview by NBC’s Christin Cooper about his brother, Chelone, who passed away last year from an apparent seizure. The younger Miller was a longshot to qualify for Sochi in snowboard, and the two had talked and dreamed about competing together at the Games. “Losing my brother this year was really hard for myself, my family, our sort of whole community,” Miller said. “I have been a focal point for them over the years — my racing. It was just — yeah, a lot of emotion. To have things go well today, as well as they did, I felt very fortunate to come out with a medal. Just, um, everything felt pretty raw and pretty connected. It was a lot for me.”
Embedded video_content_type: Bode Miller's flood of emotion
There has been no skier better on the big stage for Team USA than Julia Mancuso. After struggling mightily throughout the World Cup season, Mancuso came to the Games, and like so many times before, found her groove. In the super-combined, Mancuso recorded the fastest run of downhill and then survived a difficult slalom course to finish third and win a bronze medal. Her four medals are the most ever by a U.S. female skier and second-most all-time behind Bode Miller’s six. Mancuso, who has just seven World Cup wins in her career, is the only American woman to win medals of every color in Alpine skiing (she won giant slalom gold in Torino and silvers in super-combined and downhill in Vancouver), and joined speed skaters Bonnie Blair and Apolo Ohno as the only American Winter Games athletes to win individual medals at three Games. “Nothing matters but the Olympics,” Mancuso said. “The Olympics is always my redemption, the moment when I can make my season better.”
Embedded video_content_type: Slope sounds: What Julia Mancuso hears
Expectations were high for Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal coming into Sochi. In Vancouver he won three medals, gold in super-G, silver in downhill, and bronze in giant slalom. At the World Championships last year, he won downhill gold and super-G bronze. He is the World Cup standings leader in the downhill and super-G. The 31-year-old was unable, however, to translate that success at these Games. He finished just outside the medals in the downhill, taking fourth, finished tied for eighth in the super-combined, and took seventh in the super-G. Rather than compete in the giant slalom, Svindal withdrew from the Olympics, citing allergies, and returned home to prepare for the conclusion of the World Cup season.
Embedded video_content_type: All of Aksel Lund Svindal's races at 2014 Sochi Games
In 2006, Ted Ligety won gold in the combined in Torino at a point in his career when he hadn’t even tasted victory on the World Cup circuit. He carried expectations into the Vancouver Games four years ago but went home to Utah empty-handed, but mostly feeling like he didn’t lay it all on the line. It was that feeling that motivated him over the latest quadrennial. Ligety came into his third Olympics with even loftier expectations, having won three golds at the 2013 Worlds and having seven years of domination in the men’s giant slalom under his belt. He validated those achievements at these Games, racing to a monster lead in the first run and surviving a rutted course in the second to win gold by nearly a half-second. Ligety became the first American to win Olympic gold in the giant slalom and the first U.S. man with two Alpine gold medals. “Today,” Ligety said, “was awesome. There’s really no other way to put it.”
Embedded video_content_type: Ted Ligety as good as gold in giant slalom
Age only a number
A trio of athletes defied their ages, both young and old, to win Alpine skiing medals in Sochi and set new standards for what is deemed possible. American slalom prodigy Mikaela Shiffrin, who the U.S. national championship at 16, won her first World Cup race, her first World Cup globe and first world championship at 17, added Olympic gold to that resume at the tender age of 18. Using a unique combination of confidence and skill, Shiffrin won the first slalom gold medal for the U.S. since the 1984 Sarajevo Games, where twins Phil and Steve Mahre win gold and silver, and the first for an American woman since 1972, when Barbara Cochran won in Sapporo.
Embedded video_content_type: Side-by-side: How Shiffrin won slalom gold
In the same slalom race, Austria’s Marlies Schild became the first woman to win three Olympic medals in the same event when she picked up silver behind Shiffrin. At 32, Schild became the oldest slalom medalist in Olympic history. Ole Kristian Furuseth of Norway was 31 when he won silver at the 1998 Nagano Games.
Embedded video_content_type: Marlies Schild earns silver in women's slalom
In the men’s super-G, Bode Miller tied for bronze, his sixth career Olympic medal, to become the oldest Alpine medalist in Olympic history. In the men’s slalom, Mario Matt (34 years, 319 days) of Austria became the oldest gold medalist and 19-year-old Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway became the youngest male medalist in Alpine history. Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt had been the oldest alpine medalist and champion, winning super-G gold in Torino in 2006 at 34 years, 169 days old.
Embedded video_content_type: Mario Matt wins men's slalom gold
To call Austria’s turn at the Vancouver Olympics and abomination might be underselling the performance. For the first time in history, it’s men’s Alpine team went home without a single medal, akin to Brazil losing all of its soccer matches at the World Cup or the U.S. Dream Team pulling an 0-fer in basketball at the Olympics. Only super-G gold by Andrea Fischbacher, downhill and giant slalom bronze by Elisabeth Goergl and slalom silver by Marlies Schild salvaged the 2010 Games. For four years, the Austrians lived with the sting of 2010, but resumed their place atop the Alpine world with nine medals in Sochi. The team got on the board early when 24-year-old Matthias Mayer won the men’s downhill, almost immediately restoring a sense of pride. On the women’s side, Anna Fenninger scoredgold in the super-G on a difficult course and silver in the giant slalom; Nicole Hosp earned super-combined silver and super-G bronze; Schild and Kathrin Zettel won silver and bronze in the slalom; and Mario Matt and Marcel Hirscher won gold and silver in the men’s slalom. Needless to say, Alpine’s Big Red Machine is back.
Embedded video_content_type: Matthias Mayer delivers gold in men's downhill
The competitive landscape in Sochi was impacted dramatically by a pair of injuries. On the women’s side, Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein suffered a bone bruise to her knee and leg during a crash in the fourth downhill training run. The injury left her on crutches and her competition status in doubt. She scratched from the women’s downhill and attempted to warm-up for the super-G but was in too much pain to compete. She subsequently withdrew from the Games in which she was a three-event medal contender, a heartbreaking blow for an athlete who has comeback from four knee injuries to make it back near the top of the World Cup standings. On the men’s side, Felix Neureuther of Germany crashed his car in Munich on his way to the airport to fly to Sochi. He missed the flight to receive medical treatment, but the lingering affects of whiplash were evident. He finished eighth in the giant slalom and did not finish the slalom.
Embedded video_content_type: Neureuther DNFs final slalom run
Back of pack to forefront
Perhaps more so than at any recent Winter Olympics, the back stories of skiers from non-traditional winter sports countries captivate a broad audience. Two of those stories actually went viral. The first was of Hubertus von Hohenlohe, the Mexican-born prince of German descent, who competed at the Games for the sixth time, wearing a mariachi-themed uniform, and at age 55 became the second-oldest Winter Olympian in history. In addition to his royal blood, Hohenlohe is also a musician, a business man, a photographer, and an heir to the Fiat fortune, and has been dubbed “The Most Interesting Olympian in the World.” He crashed out of the first run of slalom.
Embedded video_content_type: Hubertus von Hohenlohe DNF in men's slalom, but all smiles
The second story belongs to Lebanon’s Jackie Chamoun, who overcame long odds to make it from Beirut to her second Olympics in Sochi. Last year, she and former Lebanese Olympian Chirine Njeim were models in one of Hohenlohe’s calendar photo shoots and appeared topless but shielded, on the slopes of Faraya in their home country. A behind-the-scenes video from that shoot, which left little to the imagination, was leaked in conservative Lebanon during the Games and Chamoun drew intense scrutiny from a government minister. The fallout drew Chamoun wide-ranging support from free speech and women’s rights groups, as well as companies and sparked the Twitter and Facebook hashtag #StripForJackie. Chamoun was not barred from competing at the Games and finished 47th in the slalom.
Embedded video_content_type: Lebanese skier Chamoun finishes 47th in slalom
Best of Sochi
Best of Sochi