Anticipation Swells As World Cup Kickoff in Sölden Nears
Twas a couple of days before the FIS Ski Alpine World Cup opener in Sölden, Austria and all through the Ötztal Valley there were lots of athletes, coaches, servicemen, media and ski-crazed fans stirring...anxiously glued to weather apps tracking the impending storm. Of course, everyone is crossing their fingers and holding their thumbs—as they say in Europe—for the weather to hold off, the clouds to part, and the sun to shine through.
If Ullr, the Snow God, (for those of you who may not be familiar) decides to hold off for just a couple more days, Olympic giant slalom gold medalists Mikaela Shiffrin (Avon, Colo.) and Ted Ligety (Park City, Utah) will lead a group of 11 women and men in the giant slalom season opener this weekend - Saturday for the women and Sunday for the men..
Let’s talk shop, shall we?! Yes, indeed...let’s start this off with a trivia question. What athlete has won at Sölden more than anyone else? Nope, not Austria’s Marcel Hirscher. Nope. Good guess and nice try. The answer is U.S. Ski Team’s own legendary giant slalom skier, Ligety. He holds the record for most wins at the season opener, having won on the Rettenbach glacier four times. That’s right...they don’t call him “Mr. GS” for nothing! With a solid, injury-free prep period, Ligety will look to capitalize on the momentum he had going last season when he made his return to the podium in Garmisch, with a third-place finish just before the Olympics.
Tommy Ford (Bend, Ore.) and Ryan Cochran-Siegle (Starksboro, Vt.) steadily climbed the giant slalom ranks during the 2018 season in what is an incredibly deep men’s giant slalom field, and both are strong and confident heading into the 2019 season. Last season, Ford grabbed three World Cup top-10 finishes, while Cochran-Siegle had two top-15 finishes at the Olympics in PyeongChang, and then the cherry on top of the season was a pair of U.S. Alpine Championship titles.
A pair of young up-and-comers—Luke Winters (Gresham, Ore.) and River Radamus (Edwards, Colo.)—join the men’s World Cup crew. The two are getting settled in their new home, and so far so good. In fact, it’s great. They’re training alongside their idols and they’re soaking it all in.
“It's been awesome training up with the World Cup guys. I think the best part is probably that they have so much knowledge and experience to pass down because they're so old. Haha. Seriously though, a lot of these guys were idols of mine when I was a kid. I've got posters of them on my walls. Getting to train alongside them, and getting to know them, I've come to learn that they are better even than my idolized versions of them. It's just an awesome group of guys who only want each other succeed, and hold each other accountable to what we think we’re capable of.”
- River Radamus
Sunday will be Winters’ inaugural World Cup start. “There is obviously a lot of excitement leading up to the race knowing that I have been looking forward to this opportunity for a long time,” said Winters. “Not only is this my first World Cup to push out of the start gate, but this is also my first World Cup I have been to. It's a big step in my career and I am excited to make it a reality. At the same time, I have been racing my whole life and this is just another step on my way up.”
The roster rounds out with two Massachusetts boys, including recent Dartmouth graduate and NCAA giant slalom champion Brian McLaughlin (Topsfield, Mass.) and Nick Krause (Northboro, Mass.) —who will make his return to World Cup action after a string of injuries.
On the women’s side, Shiffrin is looking for redemption here in Sölden. Though she won her first giant slalom World Cup victory at the opener back in 2014, she hasn’t stood on top since. And she wants it. Though she had a summer full of media and sponsor obligations and on and off-snow training, Shiffrin was able to sneak in a vacation with her boyfriend, French National Team skier Mathieu Faivre, as well. She’s stronger than ever, and she’s as happy, determined, confident and humble.
Seventeen-year-old AJ Hurt (Carnelian Bay, Calif.) hails from Squaw Valley and is Californian cruisy-cool to the core. She’ll be one of the youngest athletes on the Rettenbach glacier, but you’d never know it if you watched her because she’s calm and collected.
Finally, Tricia Mangan (Derby, N.Y.) and Nina O’Brien (Edwards, Colo.) will take on Sölden for the first time. As Dartmouth students and travel buddies off the hill, they’ve spent a lot of time with each other and look forward to the challenge.
In case you missed it, Radamus had an epic Instagram story takeover earlier this week. It's definitely worth a watch to see what antics they were up to, and to get an understanding of what a day in the life of a World Cup athlete is like.
See who to watch and where to catch all the action below.
*Denotes first World Cup Start
HOW TO WATCH
*All times EST.
SATURDAY, OCT. 27
4:00-5:30 a.m. - World Cup women’s GS, first run, Sölden, AUT - NBC Sports Gold*
7:00-8:30 a.m. - World Cup women’s GS, second run, Sölden, AUT - NBC Sports Gold*
SUNDAY, OCT. 28
4:00-5:30 a.m. - World Cup men’s GS, first run, Sölden, AUT - NBC Sports Gold*
7:00-8:30 a.m. - World Cup men’s GS, second run, Sölden, AUT - NBC Sports Gold*
* NBC Sports Gold, NBC Sports Digital’s direct-to-consumer live streaming product, launched “Snow Pass” today, giving fans access to live and on-demand domestic and international competitions of seven Olympic winter sports from October 2018 through April 2019.
NBC launched the “Snow Pass” earlier this week, and holds the exclusive rights to all FIS events held in Austria and will stream the first FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup races of the 2018-19 season from Sölden, Austria, on “Snow Pass” on Oct. 27-28.
NBC Sports Gold is available on Apple iOS, Android, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku and online at NBCSportsGold.com. NBC Sports Gold is powered by Playmaker Media, NBC Sports Digital’s technology service which provides end-to-end support for companies in need of best-in-class live streaming and VOD solutions. Click here for more information.