After Team USA’s skiers and snowboarders came away from the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games with 17 medals — including eight of the nine gold medals won by the U.S. — they could be forgiven for having an off year.
But they did nothing of the sort. During the 2014-15 winter season, U.S. skiers and snowboarders again won 17 medals, this time at the world championship events — with “expected” gold medals from proven skiers such as Ted Ligety, Mikaela Shiffrin, Hannah Kearney and Lindsey Jacobellis and pleasant surprises for younger athletes such as Alex Bowen, Jessie Diggins, Travis Ganong and Kiley McKinnon.
Throughout the various world cup circuits, Team USA athletes landed on the podium a total of 92 times. And many continued to prove season-long dominance by claiming nine overall FIS World Cup titles and the crystal globe trophies that go with this honor.
From Lindsey Vonn and Hannah Kearney each winning two (downhill and super-G for Vonn, moguls and overall freestyle for Kearney) to David Wise earning his first crystal globe in freeskiing, the TSA is probably now used to seeing world cup crystal globes in carry-on luggage.
|Travis Ganong competes during the Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup men's downhill on Dec. 28, 2014 in Santa Caterina Valfurva, Italy.|
After almost two years away from competition recovering from two knee surgeries, Lindsey Vonn rejoined the world cup tour in December and immediately returned to her winning ways. By January, she surpassed Annemarie Moser-Proell’s record of 63 world cup wins. And by season’s end, she had 67 victories. She also collected her sixth world championship medal — a bronze in super-G — for the most by any U.S. woman.
With two new world cup crystal globes, Vonn now has 19 to put into the new trophy cabinet that’s hanging over her fireplace in Vail, Colorado. She’s now tied with Swedish alpine legend Ingemar Stenmark for the most world cup titles.
“I’m honored to be even in the same sentence as him,” she said by phone after winning the super-G overall title. “I never thought I would get to this point in my career. So I’m incredibly happy.”
Although her season had its ups and downs, Vonn called it “an overwhelming success” and is proud of what she accomplished after being out for so long.
“It definitely is one of the best of my career and one of the most meaningful for sure,” she said. “To be able to come back, especially when a lot of people doubted me, has been extremely satisfying for me personally to have just worked that hard, it gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”
Vonn led a resurgence of the women’s speed team, with Alice McKennis (also back from serious injury), Stacey Cook, Julia Mancuso and Laurenne Ross regularly finishing in the world cup points (top 30). At one of the first downhills of the season in Lake Louise, Alberta, Vonn led a U.S. podium sweep, with Cook in second and Mancuso third.
Even without Bode Miller, the men were also a force in the speed races. Travis Ganong won his first world cup downhill in December, then claimed a breakthrough silver medal at the world championships in February. Team veterans Marco Sullivan, now 34, and Steven Nyman, 33, were back in the points, with Nyman stepping on the world cup podium twice and finishing fourth in downhill at worlds.
Young guys Wiley Maple and Jared Goldberg also showed promise on the otherwise “graying” men’s team. Maple, 24, finished two world cup downhills in the points, and Goldberg finished third in the combined downhill at worlds.
In the technical events (slalom and giant slalom), Ted Ligety did not dominate giant slalom like he has since 2012. But he still managed to claim his third world title in the event. With the bronze in super combined, he now has seven world championship medals — the most of any U.S. alpine skier.
After missing the podium in the first three slalom world cups, Mikaela Shiffrin — now 20 years old — wrapped up the season by winning her third consecutive world cup slalom title. Shiffrin also scored her career first giant slalom win.
“I had to work through some issues in order to get that good feeling back under me,” she said after winning the slalom at world cup finals. “But once I did that, I really had all the confidence in the world to ski well in every race. Everything wasn’t so big of a deal and I was able to win both runs in several of the races. Once that happened, I wasn’t even really worried about the globe. I felt like as long as I could keep that going, if I deserved to win the globe, then I would get it.”
Next season, she hopes to add the giant slalom crystal globe to her growing collection.
|Hannah Kearney competes during the women's moguls final of the 2015 FIS Freestyle Ski and Snowboard World Championship on Jan. 18, 2015 in Kreischberg, Austria.|
Just when it looked like the Chinese were on their way to freestyle aerials domination, along came Kiley McKinnon and Mac Bohonnon. Childhood friends from Connecticut, the two young aerials skiers (both are 19) became podium regulars this year, with Bohonnon winning two world cups, and each won the overall aerials titles. This was the first time since 1995 that the U.S. claimed both the men’s and women’s overall aerials crowns.
McKinnon’s crystal globe is the first for a U.S. woman since Nikki Stone brought home the title in 1998. Bohonnon’s is the first for the U.S. men since 2005 when Jeret ‘Speedy’ Peterson earned the title.
Right behind McKinnon in the world cup standings was Ashley Caldwell, one of few women to throw triple twisting flips. When she landed on her feet, she would win. And that happened twice this season.
On the rise is Alex Bowen, who earned silver in the men’s event at world championships and finished as high as sixth on the world cup circuit.
Olympic gold medalist Hannah Kearney was, yet again, the consistent headliner for the U.S. freestyle moguls team. The 29-year-old won her sixth overall world cup moguls title and fourth overall in freestyle. She also won her first world championship title in dual moguls.
Behind Kearney, 17-year-old Morgan Schild won her first world cup this season and was named FIS Rookie of the Year. Hopefully, she can soon fill the large void left by Kearney, who is retiring after the U.S. Freestyle Championships this week.
The U.S. men did not dominate world cup moguls competitions like they have in previous years. But Patrick Deneen, Jeremy Cota, Dylan Walczyk and Thomas Rowley scored one world cup podium each. Rowley also was named FIS Rookie of the Year.
David Wise takes second place and wins the overall globe in halfpipe skiing during the FIS Freestyle World Cup Finals 2015 on March 12, 2015 in Tignes, France.
In freeskiing, the usual suspects stepped onto the podiums at the Dew Tour, U.S. Grand Prix and X Games. Olympic gold medalist Maddie Bowman scored wins at all three events in the halfpipe this season, while Keri Herman took slopestyle silver at X Games.
On the men’s side, David Wise was back to dueling with Torin Yater-Wallace in the halfpipe in December. But by X Games, neither halfpipe freeskier made the podium. In fact, by season’s end, it was slopestyle Olympic silver medalist — and Sochi puppy “dad” — Gus Kenworthy who proved his versatility by beating Wise in the final grand prix halfpipe for the win. But Wise hung on to win the overall world cup title in halfpipe.
“There’s so much that goes into it,” Wise said after receiving his first crystal globe. “It's not just one event. It's not just one run. It's the whole season. So to come down with the crystal globe for the first time in my career is an amazing feeling.”
Slopestyle Olympic gold medalist Joss Christensen was back atop the podium in the final U.S. Grand Prix of 2015 in late February, and he came close to winning his first overall world cup title. But thanks to a broken hand sustained a couple days before the final world cup, he fell short.
Olympic bronze medalist Nick Goepper also notched a slopestyle win this year, taking his third X Games gold.
While the big-name slopestylers were at X Games, Noah Wallace competed for Team USA at the world championships and earned a bronze medal.
“It’s pretty cool that different guys won every contest this year,” said Ben Verge, U.S. freeskiing halfpipe coach. “It shows the level of skiing right now and the depth of the field, which is really cool.”
Danny Davis competes in the men’s superpipe snowboarding final at the 2015 Winter X Games at Buttermilk Mountain on Jan. 22, 2015, in Aspen, Colo.
In women’s halfpipe, the theme of 2015 might be “changing of the guard.” While Kelly Clark still won the two U.S. Grand Prix halfpipe titles (which helped her nab the crystal globe for the season), the Burton Euro Open, and she led a U.S. sweep at the Burton U.S. Open in March, the 31-year-old three-time Olympic medalist was runner-up to 14-year-old Chloe Kim at the Winter X Games in January.
At the Burton U.S. Open, Clark watched as both Kim and Arielle Gold threw 1080s (three revolutions) to challenge for the win.
“Today I saw these girls doing 10s, and I was like, yes, that's what I was waiting for! It's about the progression of women's snowboarding,” said Clark. “I'm so grateful to still be a part of snowboarding and I know women's snowboarding will be in good hands whenever these girls take over.”
In snowboardcross, Lindsey Jacobellis still rules. The 29-year-old won her fourth world title in January, then followed that up with her ninth gold at X Games. In women’s slopestyle, the almost infallible Jamie Anderson won her fourth U.S. Open title, along with the Dew Tour win. She took the silver medal at X Games.
In men’s halfpipe, Taylor Gold started off the 2014-15 season with two wins (Dew Tour and Copper U.S. Grand Prix) and later took second at the Park City Grand Prix in March. Danny Davis was the other golden guy, taking the X Games title in January.
While the top dogs were competing at X Games, newcomer Ryan Stassel and Kyle Mack went one-three in men’s slopestyle at the world championships. Also in slopestyle, Chas Guldemond took home the win at the Dew Tour.
With perhaps the most astonishing result of the season, Shaun White finished fourth at the X Games. The 15-time X Games gold medalist hasn’t missed the podium since 2001 (note: he did not compete in 2014).
U.S. men still have a toe in boardercross, with Nick Baumgartner earning a bronze medal at the 2015 world championships and Nate Holland nipping him by a quarter of a second for the bronze at X Games. Olympic bronze medalist Alex Deibold ended the world cup season with a second-place finish.
And Justin Reiter won his first world cup parallel slalom event in Moscow in early March. It was the first alpine snowboarding win for an American in over 11 years.
Liz Stephen competes during the women's 10-kilometer at the FIS Cross Country World Cup on Jan. 4, 2015 in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Three-time overall sprint world cup champion Kikkan Randall had an off year, not making the podium until March. But her teammates kept up the women’s cross-country team’s momentum. Jessie Diggins and Caitlin Gregg electrified U.S. cross-country when they took the silver and bronze medals in the 10-kilometer freestyle race at the world championships — the first ever distance medals for the women, and the first time two U.S. cross-country skiers stood on the world championship podium together.
Liz Stephen had a best-ever finish in the Tour de Ski in January, taking fifth — meeting a goal that she set last summer. Two weeks later, Stephen finished second at a world cup in Russia for the top world cup distance result by an American woman.
Sarah Hendrickson moved steadily up the results sheet and capped her comeback season by soaring to second in the FIS Ski Jumping World Cup finale at Oslo’s Holmenkollen, the lone event of the season for the women to jump on a large hill. Her performance erased more fears after her August 2013 training crash on the large hill at Oberstdorf, Germany.
"I love flying on large hills,” she said, “and I am particularly proud of myself for overcoming my fear of big hills since that is how I got injured in 2013. I had moments training for Oslo and throughout the whole year where I was nervous around jumping a K120 but I trusted myself and that's what I am proud of at the end of this season. It's a bummer I am jumping so well right now with it over but that gives me so much confidence for the summer and next season."
The season also marked a world cup podium debut for 24-year-old Wisconsin native Nita Englund.
Susan Dunklee competes during the women's 7.5-kilometer sprint during the IBU Biathlon World Cup on Dec. 12, 2014 in Hochfilzen, Austria.
Brothers Bryan and Taylor Fletcher carried the U.S. team in Nordic combined. Taylor’s best result was a world cup podium finish in Japan in February, while Bryan took fifth in the large hill competition at the world championships. With excellent ski jumping, he also scored seven top-10 finishes.
In biathlon, Susan Dunklee almost matched her best-ever world cup finish with a sixth in pursuit in January (her best is a fifth in the individual competition). Hannah Dreissigacker scored three top 20s in the sprint.
A freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered three Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.