A lot has gone wrong for US alpine skiing at the Olympics

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BEIJING (AP) — A United States team led by Mikaela Shiffrin leaves the Beijing Olympics with just one of 30 individual medals in alpine skiing. And it’s a silver medal (from Ryan Cochran-Siegle in the men’s super-G).

The country responsible for such Winter Games successes as Bode Miller, Lindsey Vonn, Ted Ligety and Julia Mancuso over the past two decades alone won just one ski racing medal at the 1998 Olympics – and at least it was a gold medal. So really, you have to go all the way back to 1988, when the Americans didn’t win any alpine medals, to find a worse performance than in 2022.

“We have clear goals and expectations that we build into our program,” said Paul Kristofic, US Alpine Women’s Head Coach, “and, of course, when you don’t, it’s disappointing.”

There is one last chance for a medal on Saturday in the team parallel race, an event added to the Olympics in 2018. Shiffrin is on the US roster for it, along with Paula Moltzan, AJ Hurt, River Radamus, Tommy Ford and Luke Winters. .

So what went wrong for the United States this time around? A lot, it turns out.

Let’s start with Shiffrin, already one of the most accomplished skiers in history at 26, with three medals at past Olympics – two golds, one silver – as well as six gold medals at the World Championships. world, three World Cup titles, 73 World Cup victories (third-most) and 47 World Cup slalom victories (a record for all disciplines).

She competed in all five women’s races in China and here’s how they went, in order: giant slalom, Did Not Finish; slalom, did not finish; super-G, ninth; downhill, 18th; combined, did not finish.

“I don’t really understand, and I don’t know when I’ll have a lot of explanation,” Shiffrin said Thursday, when she fell about 10 seconds in the slalom portion of the combined after finishing fifth in the downhill. . “And I can’t explain to you how frustrated I am not knowing what I can learn from the day.”

Simply put: the best skier in the world in recent years has performed poorly over the past 1 1/2 weeks.

Other issues for the United States included the absence of Breezy Johnson, the second-highest Women’s World Cup downhill this season, who missed the Olympics after surgery; Ford raced for the first time since sustaining a serious injury in January 2021; a smaller men’s team of just six riders due to rule changes, so only one American entered the slalom and, for the first time, zero entered the combined.

The best performance by an American was Moltzan’s eighth place finish in the slalom.

Aside from Cochran-Siegle’s silver, the only American to do better than 12th place is Radamus’ fourth-place finish in the giant slalom.

Perhaps medals, especially gold medals, are not the only measures of Winter Games success. They are, however, what matters most when it comes to judging a team.

“These are the real superstars who won the medals in the last Olympics,” said Forest Carey, the U.S. men’s alpine head coach, “and on the men’s side, anyway, we don’t have these superstars.”

At the Pyeongchang Games four years ago, the American men did not win a medal in alpine skiing, but the women did get three.

Other American medals total this century: five in 2014, eight in 2010, two in 2006, two in 2002.

“It’s a bit strange because usually the Americans are always strong at big events,” said Italian skier Alex Vinatzer. “But at the end of the day, a one-time event is a one-time event, and it’s hard to do well.”

Look what Switzerland, a nation of less than 10 million people, has achieved: five gold medals, an alpine Olympic record, by Corinne Suter (women’s downhill), Lara Gut-Behrami (women’s super-G), Michelle Gisin (women’s combined), Beat Feuz (men’s downhill), Marco Odermatt (men’s giant slalom). This nation has accumulated nine individual medals in the sport.

Austria collected six medals (two gold); Italy four; France and Norway three each.

“These Olympics came at a time of transition,” Carey said, pointing to Radamus, who turned 24 last weekend, as an example of promising talent. “The Olympics is all about medals, but the guys with us competed pretty well. And we have a stronger base to come. It’s just hard to tell if any of them are going to be transcendent like Bode or Ted.

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AP sportswriters Andrew Dampf and Daniella Matar contributed to this report.

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Howard Fendrich has covered alpine skiing for the Associated Press for the past five Winter Olympics. Follow him on https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich or email him at hfendrich@ap.org

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More from AP Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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