February 12, 2007
ARE, SWEDEN - (USST News Bureau Release) - When the blockbuster field of 151 men's giant slalom entries was winnowed to the top 50 skiers, according to the World Cup Start List, all four U.S. Ski Team athletes easily made it into the top group.
Racing Wednesday: former GS world champion and 2002 Olympic GS silver medalist Bode Miller (Bretton Woods, NH), Olympic combined gold medalist Ted Ligety (Park City, UT - whose first World Cup victory came last March in a GS in South Korea, Jimmy Cochran (Keene, NH) and Tim Jitloff (Reno, NV), who was 37th in the final grouping.
Make that three new events this year at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships - the super combined, the men's giant slalom qualification race Monday (leading to Wednesday's GS) and now a men's slalom qualification Thursday in advance of the men's SL Saturday, the final individual race at Worlds.
Men's Race Director Guenther Hujara said 189 men had registered to compete in the slalom, forcing FIS to create a format to reduce the size of the slalom field, too. Otherwise, there would be too many racers competing. They still compete, they still race at the championships, Hujara said, but if they don't qualify for the championship stage Wednesday, then they don't qualify and don't race.
One obvious problem with a huge field is how unwieldy it becomes and how beaten down - and unfair - course conditions can be for the last racers.
Double-silver medalist Lindsey Kildow (Vail, CO) again got major cheers - not on the level of triple-gold, national heroine Anja Paerson, of course - at the awards ceremony Sunday night. When the downhill medals had been presented and music started playing, Kildow spontaneously led off the swinging and swaying on-stage for perhaps 30 seconds with the emcee and the other two medalists, Paerson and Austria's Nicole Hosp.
At one point, the taller Kildow and the less-tall Paerson were bumping hips and leading the hand-clapping while the crowd cheered and clapped enthusiastically.
Sweden's Patrik Jaerbyn, the downhill bronze medalist, made certain during the post-race press conference, where he became the oldest skier (38) to medal at a World Championships, to thank the U.S. Ski Team and Norway's team for inviting him to train with them when he was dropped in 2003 by the Swedish team.
"Without those two (teams)," Jaerbyn said, "I'd probably not be sitting here" telling journalists about his medal performance.
U.S. Men's Head Coach Phil McNichol said, "That's generous of Patrik. He was a good addition for us at different times, training with us last November at Copper Mountain (CO) and in Portillo in previous years.
"He came to us - we've done things with the Norwegians and Swedes, and we certainly knew him...and he paid his own bills, covered his own expenses, and we gave him someone to train with. Sometimes he had a trainer, sometimes he didn't...he'd prepare his own skis, and all that.
"He's always been fast, always had good pace, and as we figured, he was a great addition to what we were doing," McNichol said. "I wouldn't just have everyone join us, but we knew him, knew he's such a good guy...and I think it was definitely to our mutual benefit, and for him to get the medal was awesome."