Professional sports have been put on a hold and to get through the times, fans around the world have been watching replays of the greatest athletic performances in history from the comforts of their own home. From Michael Jordan’s game-winning jump shot in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals to Bill Mazeroski’s walk-off homer in Game 7 of the 1960 World Series, or even Tiger Woods’ 12 stroke victory in the 1997 Masters. With the cancellation of the World Cup Finals in Cortina, Italy, and the other nail-biting season-end races, ski racing fans have been left unsatisfied. However, like these other great sports moments, below are, what I consider to be 10 of the most exciting U.S. Ski Team performances of the 21st century.
1. Daron Rahlves wins the 2003 Hannenkamm downhill – Kitzbuehel, Austria
Rahlves’ victory on the Streif is one of the greatest moments in American alpine speed skiing history. In a race where medivac helicopters are often in heavy use, Rahlves fearlessly kicked out of the starting gate reaching 80 km/h three seconds into the run. Holding the lead throughout the deteriorating course, Rahlves edged-out Hannenkam legend Didier Cuche and inscribed his name in the history books. He is the first American to win on the Streif since Buddy Werner’s victory in 1959.
2. Lindsey Vonn wins the 2010 Olympic downhill – Vancouver, British Columbia
Despite suffering from a badly bruised shin, Vonn managed to push through the pain to win her first Olympic gold medal. This run stands out among Vonn’s 84 other World Cup, Olympic, and World Championship victories as she held the lead at every split of this demanding track. Vonn often declares this victory as one of the greatest moments of her life and will be a highlight for alpine ski racing fans forever.
3. Ted Ligety wins the 2015 World Championship giant slalom – Beaver Creek, Colorado
After suffering a broken hand during the first half of the 2015 World Cup season, Ligety’s dominant second run reminded the ski racing world that he was still the king of GS. After ripping through the difficult turns on Screech Owl, Golden Eagle, and Harrier, Ligety topped arch-rival Marcel Hirscher by nearly a half-second. His victory will be remembered as one of the greatest giant slalom performances ever.
4. Bode Miller wins 2005 World Championship downhill – Bormio, Italy
After skiing the downhill portion of the alpine combined on one ski two days earlier, Miller returned with a vengeance in the regular downhill race. In classic Miller fashion, he took all the risks necessary to edge out his American teammate, Daron Rahlves, by 44-hundredths of a second. The one-two Miller-Rahlves combination will be remembered as a bright moment in American alpine skiing history and in Miller’s career.
5. Julia Mancuso wins 2006 Olympic giant slalom – Torino, Italy
Julia Mancuso’s victory in Torino marked the beginning of her decorated career and “big race” performances including medals in the 2010 and 2014 Olympic games. While leading after the first run of the giant slalom, Mancuso navigated flat light and tough second run conditions and went on to win the gold medal.
6. Andrew Weibrecht takes silver in 2014 Olympic super-G – Sochi, Russia
Running second to last among the elite field of racers, Andrew Weibrecht stormed into second place in the Olympic Super-g at the Rosa Khutor Race Center. Standing 5-foot 6, Weibrecht knifed the first four demanding turns and carried his speed well throughout the rest of the 2-minute course. This gritty performance built on Weibrecht’s bronze medal in the Super-g at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
7. Mikaela Shiffrin wins 2013 World Championship slalom in – Schladming, Austria
At age 17, Mikaela Shiffrin became the 2013 slalom World Champion in Schladming, Austria. Shiffrin managed her nerves exceptionally well on the second run to beat Michaela Kirchgasser by two-tenths of a second. Through her smooth and technically flawless turns, Shiffrin became the third-youngest woman to win the slalom World Championship. This race stands out among her many victories as she rose to the center of the ski world as a teenager.
8. Travis Ganong takes silver in 2015 World Championship downhill – Beaver Creek, Colorado
Travis Ganong’s impressive skiing in the 2014/2015 season marked his rise on the World Cup circuit. Looking to build off of his victory in the downhill in Santa Caterina, Italy in late December, Ganong was motivated to perform for the home crowd at the 2015 Beaver Creek World Championships. Ganong executed a spectacular run and riled up the home crowd. His silver medal at the World Champs is one of the great moments of his career.
9. Tommy Ford wins 2020 World Cup giant slalom – Beaver Creek, Colorado
After more than a decade on the World Cup circuit, Ford dominated the 2019 Birds of Prey giant slalom resulting in his first World Cup victory. Through his Zen-like mindset, Ford navigated the heavy snow, flat light, and home crowd pressure. Ford executed a flawless run and beat out the Norwegian tech duo, Henrik Kristofferson and Leif Nestvold-Haugen, by 8-tenths of a second. His victory brought back an American to the top of the podium at the Beaver Creek GS and is one of the greatest moments of Ford’s career to date.
10. Steven Nyman wins 2014 World Cup downhill – Val Gardena, Italy
In 2014, Nyman won the Val Gardena downhill for the third time. Using his long and strong legs to absorb the challenging terrain throughout the course, Nyman carried his speed exceptionally well to overtake the field. Winning by 3 tenths of a second, Nyman solidified his name in the all-time greats of American speed skiing.