U.S. Ski Team struggles over Olympic alpine team selectionThe Saturday race at Adelboden was the last men’s giant slalom before the Olympic Winter Games, which begin on Feb. 10. It’s clear that Bode Miller, Daron Rahlves and Erik Schlopy will get start positions, but it is a mystery who will fill the fourth and final spot.
‘There will be discussions about the fourth spot for sure’ said head men’s coach Phil McNichol. ‘It would have been a whole lot easier if Ted Ligety had finished top 10.’
Those discussions will be about whether Jimmy Cochran or Ted Ligety gets the fourth and final spot in the Olympic giant slalom. Cochran has the single best result in GS (seventh at Kranjska Gora), but Ligety has an eighth from Soelden to go along with his 13th on Saturday.
The team’s criteria states that two top-10 results count for automatic, objective qualification to the Olympics; otherwise the fourth spot is a matter of the team’s subjective discretion. That explains McNichol’s remarks about wishing Ligety had finished in the top 10. ‘We’d prefer a clean criteria decision’ said McNichol.
The U.S. Ski Team will not announce its selections until Jan. 25, but Cochran has already given his prediction. ‘I think the spot is Ted’s’ said Cochran, looking disappointed as he spoke to Ski Racing in the finish. ‘I’m gunning for the slalom now. It’s still wide-open.’
Between Saturday and the Jan. 25 announcement, there are four slaloms that count in the selection criteria: Adelboden, Wengen, Kitzbuehel and Schladming.
In other news, team veteran Dane Spencer is now certain to miss the Olympic Games. He has been hampered this year by an MCL injury, and crashed in the first run of Adelboden’s GS, which was his last chance to qualify.
‘Now I have some time to stew over it, because the next World Cup race for me isn’t for seven weeks’ said the disappointed Idahoan, referring to the South Korea giant slaloms March 4-5. ‘I’ll get some training in, some Europa Cup races, and try to finish out the season strong.’