Miller, Vonn, McKennis among U.S. World Cup team members | PostIndependent.com
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Miller, Vonn, McKennis among U.S. World Cup team members

Pat Graham
The Associated Press
Bode Miller takes a jump during training in Austria last week. He's scheduled to race at Beaver Creek in the world championships.
Shinichiro Tanaka / AP | AP

ON THE MEND, AND ON THE REBOUND

Alice McKennis of Glenwood Springs is among the 24 members of the U.S. Ski Team who will be competing in next week’s FIS World Cup at Beaver Creek. She’s had a long road to recovery in getting to this point. To get some background on McKennis, click here.

The Alpine director of the U.S. Ski Team has a healthy — and extremely confident — Lindsey Vonn for the world championships next week in Beaver Creek. One of the best slalom skiers in teenager Mikaela Shiffrin, too.

And don’t forget Ted Ligety, who won three titles at the 2013 world championships in Austria.

Still, Patrick Riml is holding out hope that his “unbelievably strong team” includes one more familiar name — Bode Miller.

It all depends on how much Miller’s surgically repaired back improves by next Wednesday for the super-G or Feb. 7 for the downhill.

However, Riml is prepared to give the six-time Olympic medalist until the last possible moment to see if the back can hold up to the rigors of racing.

“We’ll see how it shakes out, how Bode’s feeling day by day. Then, we’ll make a call,” said Riml, who announced his roster Wednesday and included Miller on the squad. “We’re very fortunate to have Bode being able to ski, with his track record over the last decade-plus. It’s very awesome for us to have him on the team.”

Miller has yet to compete in a World Cup race this season after having a herniated disk repaired in November. And while his race status for Beaver Creek remains uncertain, he’s showing signs of improvement.

The 37-year-old Miller recently turned in solid training runs in Wengen, Switzerland, and Kitzbuehel, Austria, before electing to skip the races.

He may be known for taking plenty of risks in a competition, but he’s playing it safe with his back. This is the event he’s been eyeing all along as Miller made his eighth team for the world championships, which are held every two years.

“(The training runs) show he has to get more mileage under his belt, to get back in form and closer to the top,” Riml said. “Every day is an important day for Bode to get back on snow and get the feeling back.”

That’s hardly the case for Vonn, who’s already in top form as she enters the world championships in her hometown with a head of steam. She recently surpassed the 35-year-old record held by Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell for most World Cup wins.

“I always believed I’d be back on top eventually,” said Vonn, who now has 64 World Cup victories after taking a super-G race in St. Moritz, Switzerland, last Sunday. “I didn’t know how long it would take.”

This is as healthy as Vonn has been heading into a major event in quite some time. The 30-year-old blew out her right knee in a super-G race at the 2013 world championships in Schladming, Austria. She then hurt her knee again, keeping her out of the Sochi Olympics.

Vonn and Julia Mancuso, a five-time medalist at Worlds, have locked up two of the U.S. Ski Team’s four spots for the super-G next Tuesday and the downhill Friday after next.

That leaves Cook, Laurenne Ross and Glenwood Springs’ Alice McKennis battling for the other two spots in the speed races. The team has a variety of tiebreakers for such situations, including podiums, World Cup points and FIS points.

Coming into Beaver Creek, Cook has a podium — second place in the Lake Louise, Alberta, downhill.

In World Cup downhill points, it’s Ross (191), Cook (119) and McKennis (62). In super-G points, Ross and Cook are tied at 41, while McKennis has five.

“Laurenne, Alice and Stacey, we’re going to have to get together as a coaching staff to figure out who’s going to go,” Riml said.

Riml would not comment on whether the team will simply have a time trial during training next week to break the deadlock.


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