Bode optimistic, Ted realistic
BEAVER CREEK — As the 2015 FIS-Alpine World Ski Championships were beginning on Monday, one question was on the minds of ski racing fans across the globe.
Will Bode Miller race?
In a short press conference Monday, Miller did his best to quell the curiosity.
“I’m here and ready to race,” Miller said. “The preparation has gone about as well as it could have.”
When the news broke earlier this season that Miller was going to need a microdiscectomy on a herniated disk in his back, many suspected the end was near for the 37-year-old ski racing sensation. Miller himself even said things like “I don’t really feel like I need a sendoff,” and, “If this is it, then I’ll talk to my wife and make a plan.”
Miller, however, opted for a rare type of surgery where the recovery time is much quicker, but the patient has to be awake and conscious the whole procedure.
“You have to tell [the surgeon] if it hurts too much, because he’s compressing the nerve,” Miller said. “It’s a risky move.”
Following the surgery, Miller’s goal was to get a few training runs at the January World Cup stops in Wengen and Kitzbuhel, which he did, finishing sixth in training on the legendary Hahnenkamm in Austria.
“Although I didn’t race I had some pretty aggressive skiing in Wengen and Kitzbuhel on the race hill,” Miller said Monday. “That was sort of the last step before I feel comfortable coming in and actually putting the gas pedal down in a race.”
Another question on the minds of race fans — what is going on with Ted Ligety? — was also addressed Monday, by Ligety himself. A master of the Giant Slalom, Ligety’s win here in December is the only time he’s found himself atop the World Cup podium so far this season.
“GS this year hasn’t gone as smoothly as maybe it has in years past,” Ligety said Monday. “But I did win here in the fall, and this is a hill that I have a lot of confidence on. I’ve done really well here in the past, if there’s a hill that I would have confidence on without necessarily skiing well this would be the hill.”
Ligety has a massive undertaking on his hands here in Beaver Creek as he is defending world champion in the giant slalom, super-G and the combined, a remarkable hat trick he achieved while skiing in top form at the last World Championships in Schladming, Austria, in 2013.
“Obviously defending all three would be a dream come true, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the most realistic expectation,” Ligety said Monday. “If there is a place to repeat this would be one of the better places, but it’s not something I’m consumed about.”
Miller and Ligety have plenty of competition, not the least of which will come from their own teammates. At the World Cup here in December, Steven Nyman was the only American to find the podium in the speed events, where he was third in the downhill. He then notched a win in Val Gardena, Italy, in December, and teammate Travis Ganong followed up with a win at the next downhill stop on the tour.
For Wednesday’s super-G — with Bode hoping for a start, Ligety the defending world champion, Ganong and Nyman both notching downhill wins this season and Andrew Weibrecht a big-game hunter in the discipline, earning Olympic super-G medals in 2010 and 2014 — picking the four competitors the U.S. is allowed could be a difficult choice.
“When you’ve got great guys, experienced guys, proven winners, and also young guys coming up who have been making the steps day in and day out, there’s tough decisions to be made,” said Sasha Rearick, the U.S. men’s team’s head coach. “I know that whatever team we name for race day will be our best team.”
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Thanksgiving seems to be ever-present here in the Roaring Fork Valley. I’m not talking turkey and gravy, I’m speaking to the gifts we receive constantly, throughout the seasons.