The U.S. Alpine Ski Team looks ahead to the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games after its most successful Olympic Games in team history with eight medals at the Vancouver Games. Anchored by veteran gold medalists Lindsey Vonn, Bode Miller, Ted Ligety and Julia Mancuso, the team has also experienced a recent surge from FIS Alpine World Cup podium finishers Stacey Cook, Marco Sullivan, Steven Nyman and 17-year-old phenom Mikaela Shiffrin.
The Olympic alpine competition consists of five events each for men and women, including downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super-G and super combined. The same rules apply for both men and women in each discipline, but the courses differ. American alpine athletes will be in medal contention for every event hosted at the Sochi Games, with 10 sets of medals up for grabs.
Team USA’s success has stemmed from strong athletic training partners, most notably the game-changing speed center at Copper Mountain, Colo., and the European training base at Soelden, Austria. In addition, the team's recent rise to being one of the best in the world has grown out of strong leadership on all levels – particularly through coaching and athlete leadership.
All alpine events for the Sochi Games will be held at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, located at the Aibga Ridge rising above the Mzymta River. The slopes were developed by Bernard Russi, a world-renowned ski architect from the FIS. The total length of the competition track is 20 kilometers and the venue can hold 7,500 spectators.
The alpine resort is already a major alpine skiing center in the Northern Caucasus region and has hosted several major international competitions. The first phase of the facility opened in November 2010 for test events.
- Lindsey Vonn will look to enter the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games as the defending Olympic gold medalist in downhill and the most dominant female alpine athlete in decades. She has continued to rewrite the record books since her historic performance at the Vancouver Games.
- Bode Miller hopes to return for his fifth Olympic Games after taking the gold, silver and bronze in Vancouver. He is the most decorated U.S. male for alpine skiing in Olympic history.
- Mikaela Shiffrin will be 18 years old when the Sochi Games begin, but she has already electrified the FIS Alpine World Cup circuit with multiple podium performances.
- The women's speed team has won the national standings for downhill over the past two seasons, with podium performances from Lindsey Vonn, Julia Mancuso, Stacey Cook and Leanne Smith. Other world cup top-10 regulars are Alice McKennis and Laurenne Ross.
- A shift in coaching style with the men's speed team has led to the team’s greatest success since 2008, with world cup podium finishes from Marco Sullivan, Steven Nyman and Bode Miller.
ATHLETES TO WATCH
After a record-breaking season in 2011-12, Vonn will likely enter the 2014 Olympic Winter Games as the most successful women's alpine athlete in history. She will look to repeat as Olympic champion after becoming the first American woman to win Olympic gold in the downhill at the Vancouver Games, where she also claimed the bronze medal in super-G.
Miller is aiming for his fifth Olympic berth. He is already the most successful world cup and Olympic male alpine skier of all time, but will look to add to his legacy at the age of 36.
Ligety has been the most dominant giant slalom skier over the last five years on the FIS Alpine World Cup tour. At age 21, he took the gold medal at the Torino Games, but did not reach the podium at the 2010 Games. He has also built himself into a solid all-around skier and will also be a medal threat in the super-G, super combined and slalom events.
Mancuso has more Olympic medals than any other U.S. female alpine skier (3). Known for rising to the occasion in big events, she will look to add to her total in Sochi. She is poised to be a favorite in downhill, super-G, super combined and giant slalom at the Sochi Games.
Shiffrin was voted the FIS Alpine World Cup Rookie of the Year in her first season on tour. In her second year, she was consistently a podium favorite in slalom and is quickly becoming a threat in giant slalom. She will be 18 years old at the Sochi Games.
The U.S. can receive up to 22 quota spots in alpine skiing for the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games, which can include a max of 14 athletes of either gender and up to four competitors per event. The U.S. is expected to get all 22 spots, based on athletes meeting the A qualification standard of being ranked in the top 500 in their respective event on the Olympic FIS Points List, which is published at the end of the qualification period on Jan. 20, 2014 (the qualification period began in July 2012).
Athletes are selected for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team based on objective criteria, generally through rankings and results in the FIS Alpine World Cup tour. The qualification period opens in October 2013 and closes at the end of January 2014.
|Feb. 20-24||Audi FIS Alpine Women’s World Cup||Méribel, France|
|Feb. 20-24||Audi FIS Alpine Men’s World Cup||Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany|
|Feb. 28-March 3||Audi FIS Alpine Women’s World Cup||Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany|
|Feb. 28-March 3||Audi FIS Alpine Men’s World Cup||Kvitfjell, Norway|
|March 9-10||Audi FIS Alpine Women’s World Cup||Offerschwang, Germany|
|March 9-10||Audi FIS Alpine Men’s World Cup||Kranjska Gore, Slovenia|
|March 11-17||Audi FIS Alpine World Cup||Lenzerheide, Switzerland|
|Oct. 26-27||Audi FIS Alpine World Cup opener||Soelden, Austria|
|Oct. 31||U.S. Ski Team Speed Center opening||Copper Mountain, Colo.|
|Nov. 7-15||Audi FIS Alpine World Cup||Beaver Creek, Colo.|
|Nov. 15||First Tracks (Olympic Team naming event)|
|Jan. 28||Final day to qualify for the Olympic Team|