HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY AND A COMBI IN GARMISCH
Before I start in on the Super Combi in Garmisch today, I need to wish my wife and family a Happy Valentine’s Day. Shannon was kind enough to marry me almost 15 years ago and has stuck by me in some tough times and a lot of time apart. And my son Coen has seen it all. He has grown up against the back-drop of ski racing his entire life and seen my career grow and change and flow within the sport. I love you both and thank you for all you do for me and our family!
So, all the sentiment aside, the men raced their Super Combi today with an interesting outcome and a field that was lacking some of the Combined favorites. With Kostelic and Janka on the sidelines, I am sure Svindal saw the door open a crack. He is the defending champ in this discipline from Val d’Isere and the Downhill track suits him fine. It is turny in sections and has a fast sustained speed. And with his lead over Feuz, I am sure he felt confident he could hold him off. But the others who were back a second or more could still take this away from him. Aksel served notice at the beginning of the day that he would be the man to beat and it proved to be true. Innerhofer also put down a good downhill run but really was even more impressive with his slalom run. I have seen “Inner” be very fast in slalom in person but never on as demanding of a hill as in Partenkirchen. Nor have I seen him sustain his speed and consistency for even a whole run of training. But he got it done. And I would have to say the same thing about Peter Fill. We once were training all together in Westendorf, just down the street from Kitzbuehel during Kitzbuehel week and we were amazed with the speed Fill could bring to slalom. But a few injuries later and adding a few years and pounds, Peter Fill just has not seemed as good in slalom as he had in the past. As a younger racer, he was a great threat in Combined but not so much of late. It all played out in a very warm climate in Garmisch which is really not all that unusual. But the race gave us some excitement and saw Svindal as a man determined to win that particular race, and win he did. And for Peter Fill, it is nice to see him win a medal, as I am sure he feels relief in having done so this year. And Innerhofer, what can you say? He had 3 chances and scored a medal of each color. Fantastic!
So as they move along into a day off and the Team event and tech events in the near future, I need to wonder out loud how the hills are going to hold-up? The weather looks nice and chilly at night but still with the day-time highs getting well over the freezing point in the valley. And while they are not predicting that plus 10 degree Celsius type weather in the near future, they still might be seeing the freeze and thaw conditions for the next week which might prompt the FIS to move start times earlier in the morning if they can convince the TV partners to follow that lead. If not, they could find themselves in the situation where they will need to use chemical on the track for the slalom in the second runs. The GS is on the Garmisch side on the bottom of the DH track so it should stay in the shade for the most part and the track should stay firm.
The Team event, as it has grown and evolved through the seasons and it something I still don’t understand and still can’t get behind. Most fans don’t understand it and don’t watch it. The athletes have always shied away from it. I cannot say who will race this event for the USA but in the past we have not had our best skiers in the event every season. And we have not had them at their best if they did elect to race. But with Lindsey hurting from her concussion weeks ago and Bode clearly lacking motivation, it might be a tough go for the USA. Ted has to prepare for the GS so he might have a go at it since he is there. But beyond that, who do we have left to race?
In short, it seems like a contrived and forced event to provide one more medal opportunity. And the FIS stated their goal of getting it to Olympic status over the next Olympic cycle so we are on TV one more time and the athletes have one more chance at a medal. It is centered on the relay idea that cross-country; track and swimming have in place. But again, those are very natural events for those sports where a relay does not really lend itself to alpine.
We started a very young group in 2007 in Are and we were unable to get out of last place. And the athletes wanted to push so hard to win but took DNFs in every run. And don’t get me wrong, that hurt.
Anyway, the FIS has changed the format for the event and the athletes have taken to it a little more. But still, it is not a likely risk for globe contenders to take. And anyone with a small injury they need to take care of will opt out. The selling point is a medal for each participant and that is the only up-side. If you are an athlete with a chance at a globe, or to move into the top 7 on the WCSL or the top 15 or the top 30 by the end of the year, it makes no sense to risk injury to race in the team event. Couple that with the fact that the speed specialists are already gone and doing something else, it makes even less sense. Anyway, it has little momentum within the World Cup community itself and is only propped up by the FIS and the National Federations who obviously have something to gain from the exposure. The athletes gain little or nothing from it and if it is going to be a real event, with real passion, that part has to change. I doubt you will see the effort in the team event that you saw in the Downhill races.
The positive of it is that you might see some of the younger athletes on TV. You might see some team work and camaraderie. You might even see some smiles just for the fun of it, because the athletes enjoy skiing and racing in the sunshine? And I hope that is what you see, and not a bunch of people who would rather be doing something else, like getting ready for their last two races of this year’s World Championships.
CONGRATULATIONS TO EVERYONE AT THE FIS WORLD SKI CHAMPIONSHIPS IN GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN AND HPPY VALENTINES DAY TO EVERYONE!