White Circus Kicks Off at Soelden
SOELDEN, Austria (Oct. 20, 2015) – On Saturday, all eyes will turn to the majestic Rettenbach Glacier in Soelden for the 2015-16 Audi FIS Ski World Cup opener. In the ski racing community, this could very well be considered Mecca.
The excitement and speculation around the season opener is swirling and surging around the glacier. Who will come out on top? Will Mikaela Shiffrin (Vail, CO) prevail, winning her second straight Soelden season opening giant slalom? Will Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) regain his Soelden dominance? Will Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO)—the winningest female in World Cup history—be back in the start hut?
The Audi FIS Ski World Cup opener at Soelden is, in many ways, a testing ground. Until the big show on Saturday and Sunday, it’s a mystery who has podium potential this year. Just ask 2015 World Championships gold medalist Ligety. “I think my set up is good. I made a lot of adjustments this year and I feel like I’ve made a good step forward, so we’ll see,” he told media Tuesday on the Rettenbach Glacier. “It’s the same thing with your skiing—you don’t really know until you test it in a World Cup, so it’s still a little bit of a mystery.”
Though Ligety says that it's possible that fans will enjoy a duel between he and Austrian powerhouse Marcel Hirscher, he is quick to note others who are likely threats, like the Attacking Viking duo composed of Norwegians Aksel Lund-Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud, Frenchman Alexis Pinturault, and even the young Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen. Don’t be fooled, though. With an insatiable appetite for the win, Ligety is gunning for the overall GS title once again. He’s been skiing fast in training and he’s hungry.
Shiffrin is coming into Soelden strong, but will be a target of the top women who saw her win her one and only giant slalom a year ago on the glacier. Shiffrin, who has been training on the Moelltaler Glacier in Austria, has won three straight Audi FIS Ski World Cup slalom titles, but wants to move into more GS and speed this season. Her opening day victory last year caught many by surprise.
"Oh, my gosh, I'm so excited, I really can't wait to race," Shiffrin said in an interview with the Denver Post’s John Meyer. "Soelden went well for me last year, but I almost felt like a lot of those girls just made really big mistakes at the worst time on the course and I just happened to be the girl that made the least amount of mistakes.”
Veteran Julia Mancuso (Squaw Valley, CA) announced that she’s sitting out Soelden this year to continue resting a nagging hip injury. Vonn, who suffered an ankle fracture training on-snow this summer, is headed for Soelden but has not decided on whether she will start on Saturday.
As of Tuesday, the U.S. Ski Team had confirmed two women for Saturday’s opening GS and six men for Sunday’s race, including two first-time World Cup starts for Nick Cohee (Gardnerville, NV) and Hig Roberts (Steamboat Springs, CO).
Universal Sports Network will cover the action live with women's giant slalom on Saturday and men's giant slalom on Sunday.
CONFIRMED SOELDEN STARTERS
Mikaela Shiffrin (Eagle-Vail, CO)
Megan McJames (Park City, UT)
*First World Cup start
- The U.S. Ski Team has confirmed two women and six men to start this weekend in the Audi FIS Ski World Cup opener in Soelden.
- Last year at Soelden Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) bobbled at the bottom before the last flat, and finished a disappointing 10th. In 2013, Ligety won the opening race by an incredible 2.75 second margin.
- Mikaela Shiffrin (Vail, CO), Tim Jitloff (Reno, NV) and Tommy Ford (Bend, OR) are also slated to start. Last year at Soelden, Shiffrin tied with Austria's Anna Fenninger for her first ever Audi FIS Ski World Cup giant slalom victory.
- It is unclear whether or not Lindsey Vonn (Vail, CO), who fractured her ankle while training in New Zealand two months ago, will start in Saturday’s giant slalom.
- With a ninth place finish at World Championships, Jitloff is on the cusp of breaking through to the podium. He wants it. Watch him.
- Roberts and Cohee will be making their Audi FIS Ski World Cup debut. After a successful four years of collegiate ski racing for Middlebury and a stint with Team America and new U.S. Ski Team N-UNI Head Coach Peter Lange during the 2015 season, Hig Roberts rocketed to the B Team.
- The weekend opens on the Rettenbach Glacier with a women’s giant slalom on Saturday, followed by the men on Sunday.
- Universal Sports Network will air both races live online and on TV starting at 6:30 a.m. ET on Saturday and at 7:30 a.m. ET Sunday.
Universal Sports Network – LIVE
Saturday, Oct. 24, 6:30 a.m. EDT
Sunday, Oct. 25, 7:30 a.m. EDT
Don’t Forget: Inspired by the official U.S. Ski Team mascot Champ, the Team has kicked off a content series asking athletes about the moment they truly felt like a champion. Now, the question has been turned to YOU. Now through October 25 you can enter the #WhatMakesAChamp contest for a chance to ski win a trip to Copper to ski with Ted Ligety in November.