Monday, March 23, 2015

My review of the 2014-15 Alpine Skiing season

The 2014-15 Alpine Skiing World Cup season came to its end last weekend and now it's time to look back into the past season.


Marcel Hirscher won the fourth consecutive overall World Cup title and for the first time in his career achieved the double of slalom and giant slalom World Cup titles in the same season. He was dominant in giant slalom, winning five of the eight races and missing the podium only once. In slalom he was more vulnerable, yet in the end, his final race win was enough for the slalom title. In the final weeks of the season, he had some decent super-G results. He scored points with the 17th place in Saalbach and was fourth in the final super-G in Méribel. I wonder if he does super-G more frequently next season, especially if he faces stronger opposition for the overall title.

Kjetil Jansrud was Norway's No. 1 skier as Aksel Lund Svindal missed the World Cup season because of an Achilles tendon injury. And Jansrud's season was like a copy of Svindal's last two seasons; he won both downhill and super-G World Cup titles but that wasn't enough to beat Hirscher for the overall World Cup. After a great start to the season, mediocre results mid-season cost him the chance to win the overall title. To afford missing podiums in speed disciplines, he should have a strong giant slalom like the likes of Maier and Eberharter had when winning overall titles. Instead of finishing on the 19th place of giant slalom standings, he should've been in the top 8 to beat Hirscher for the overall title. Next season his task will be even harder as the draft schedule has only 19 speed races (11 DHs & 8 SGs) as opposed to 23 technical races (10 GSs, 11 SLs, & 2 CEs). It will also be interesting to see how he can defend the downhill and super-G titles when Svindal will be back on the tour.

Alexis Pinturault finished the season on the third place of the overall World Cup, like last season. To me, it feels like he could make no progress from the last season. He has versatility needed to succeed in the overall World Cup; he can succeed in all disciplines but downhill. But to be a contender for the overall title, he needs to start winning and making podiums frequently. This season, he couldn't take a step into that direction, instead his two wins is one less than in last two seasons.

Felix Neureuther had a solid season, fourth in the overall World Cup and second in the slalom World Cup. Still, the last weeks of the season were a disappointment for him. He lost his 66-point slalom lead in slalom to Hirscher with the 9th and 12th places of the last two slaloms, being the runner-up for the third time in a row.

Hannes Reichelt was obviously the second-best skier in men's speed disciplines, World Championship gold medal in super-G, second place in the downhill World Cup, and fourth place in the super-G World Cup. He had a streak of strong downhill performances since January, including a win in Wengen to achieve the double of classic downhill wins after last year's Kitzbühel win. Before the final downhill of the season, he was only 20 points from Jansrud who dominated the early season. Still, in the final race he couldn't beat Jansrud for the downhill title.

Henrik Kristoffersen must be the biggest prospect on the tour. The junior World Champion won two slaloms this season and at the World Cup Finals he won his first giant slalom. I think he will be ready to race for the slalom World Cup title next season. In giant slalom he may need few more years for that, yet I can see him in the future as a Hirscher-style overall World Cup contender whose campaign is based on strong slalom and giant slalom.

In speed disciplines, it's harder to see potential future overall World Cup champions. Of younger speed skiers, Dominik Paris had the best season, second in the super-G and fourth in the downhill World Cup standings.  Matthias Mayer was almost as good, third in the super-G standings and tied the fourth place in downhill. I expect both of them to win discipline titles in the future but prefer Mayer's chances for the overall title as he is at least a point-scorer in giant slalom. Yet his only top 10 result is a sixth place from last year's Olympics, he would need to improve a lot to be in giant slalom top 10 all season long.

One of my fondest memories of the season is Carlo Janka having won the combined in Wengen. That was the first win for the 2009-10 overall World Cup champion in almost four years, after suffering health issues. Even nicer was it happening in his home country Switzerland. He finished the season on the 10th place of the overall World Cup, his best season after 2010-11. But he still has lots of work ahead to win crystal globes again, 11th place in super-G was his best ranking in discipline standings.

Another fond memory is Ted Ligety having won the World Championship giant slalom in Beaver Creek, the first gold medal for the host nation on the third-last day. I was really happy the greatest giant slalom skier of this decade was able to win the gold medal in home championships as he will have retired before the next Worlds or Olympics in the USA. Apart from that gold medal and the World bronze medal in combined, this was otherwise a poor season by his standards. His only win in the World Cup was also from Beaver Creek, a giant slalom in early December. For the first time after 2009, he missed the top 2 in the giant slalom standings. And after this season, his overall World Cup dream seems quite distant. He would need another strong discipline besides giant slalom, yet he made no progress in any discipline this season, rather declined.


Anna Fenninger defended successfully the overall World Cup title. After winning the opening race in Sölden, the early season wasn't otherwise particuarly good for her and in January she was already over 300 points behind Tina Maze. But in her last 13 races, she missed the podium only twice and eventually won the overall World Cup by 22 points to Tina Maze. Besides the overall World Cup, she also managed to defend the giant slalom World Cup title. Winning the last three giant slaloms were decisive for both titles. In the speed disciplines, she challenged Lindsey Vonn very well for both downhill and super-G titles but couldn't quite beat her.

Tina Maze dominated the overall World Cup for the first half of the season. Her campaign was based on consistent good results in all disciplines rather than dominating few of them. For a long time, it worked well. Fenninger was mediocre in the first half of the season, Vonn doing only speed disciplines, and Shiffrin doing only technical disciplines. Once Fenninger started getting top results in giant slalom, super-G, and downhill, she started catching Maze whose form had dropped in technical disciplines. Maze got her best results in technical disciplines in weeks at the World Cup Finals but it wasn't anymore enough for her after the previous weeks' poor results.

Lindsey Vonn finished the season on the third place of the overall World Cup. That was a great season after her injuries. World Cup titles in downhill and super-G were very much all she could achieve by doing mostly speed disciplines. Fifth place in the final giant slalom gives some hope of a strong overall campaign next season but she would need those good giant slalom results frequently to challenge Fenninger who has three strong disciplines.

Mikaela Shiffrin finished the season on the fourth place of the overall World Cup. She was once again the dominant slalom skier and she also got her first giant slalom win this season. Within the next few seasons, I can see her becoming a strong contender for the giant slalom World Cup title. But if dominating technical disciplines is how Hirscher wins men's overall titles, that wouldn't work on women's side as the best speed skiers also have a strong giant slalom. For the overall title, Shiffrin must do at least super-G besides the technical disciplines. Despite some plans, she didn't debut in super-G this season but I expect her to give it a try in the future. If she could get decent super-G results, then she would have a great chance to win the overall title in the future.

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