Andrew Weibrecht, whom I picked as a dark horse for a medal in Vancouver a few posts ago, won bronze today in the Mens SG. Good for him. He’s 100% unbridled rage out on the race course, but really, really talented. To me, he’s probably the most entertaining World Cup skier to watch, except for maybe Bode. During WC races where we’re doing the timing & scoring, no matter how busy I am, I try to look up and watch those two if nobody else. Weibrecht is the favorite skier of my bro CoopFromCowberg, who regales us “timing tower rats” with rehashes of the amusing repartee he has with Weibrecht in the starthaus @ World Cup.
Today’s race was again decided partially by the weather. A friend of mine, who has seen and worked at way more World Cup races than I have, was actually there in person today. He said it was 50 degrees, and the course was toast by #20.
There’s been a weird dynamic in all these races that has contributed to an extraordinary performance by the US team. In order to understand this dynamic, you’ve got to understand the basics of the “bib draw” process. For TV and for the crowd, FIS wants the “top seed” to run with bibs 16-22. So in other words, if you’re the WCSL points leader and you want to ski early because you know the course is going to turn to mush, the lowest bib you can draw is 16. If the top WCSL skiers had a choice of any number, knowing how slushy the course has been, skiers like Cuche and Riesch and Vonn and Svindal would be choosing bibs 1-2-3. Julia Mancuso has been doing so poorly this season that she’s out of the “top seed” and has been “stuck” with a low bib (1-7). But when you’re racing in May weather (or Pissler in February), the early bibs are the ones to have. Same thing happened today with Weibrecht as happened with Mancusco in the DH. He was bib #3, as was Mancusco. He put down an extraordinary run, which in cold weather with a consistent course would have put him solidly in the top 10. But meanwhile, the course was softening quickly and was slowing down maybe 0.10 with every competitor. The sun and the warmth did the rest. Not to take anything away from Mancuso and Weibrecht, because everybody with bibs in the top 10 and certainly in the top 5 have had the same opportunity. They were both good and lucky.
In the womens DH, the bib disadvantage to the fastest skiers was exacerbated further by a series of crashes, each of which took about 10-12 minutes to clear. In the womens DH Vonn was able to win the DH from bib 16 by putting in a blistering run that I think would have been 2 seconds faster than anybody else (except maybe Riesch) had the weather been cold. Given the crushing pressure on Vonn, for her to put in the run she did, in that situation, was nothing short of sensational. To me it puts her up there with athletes like Roger Federer and Tiger Woods, who go into events like Wimbledon and The Masters with absolutely nothing to gain for anything other than victory. For Federer to lose in the Wimbledon Final is a disaster. For anybody else, it’s probably the highlight of their year.
Today in the mens SG, with a medal already in hand, Svindal said his plan was to go 10/10ths, either win or crash. He won.
As I stated in an earlier post, this is one of the reasons that ski racers consider the World Cup “crystal globe” way more prestigious than an Olympic medal. An Olympic medal of course looks good on your palmares, and is great for endorsements, but it’s only one race and ski racing can be flukey. If you win the crystal globe, you’ve won all season long, in all kinds of conditions, on a bunch of different courses, across continents. THAT is what makes you the best. Nobody has ever won a crystal globe under a cloud of “lucky” or “fluke”. Coincidentally, Svindal and Vonn currently hold their respective crystal globes.