Skip to content

Who are the skiers to watch at the Sochi Olympics?

Jan 7, 2014, 9:20 AM EDT

Mikaela Shiffrin AP

Lindsey Vonn‘s announcement that she will not compete in Sochi leaves a major Olympic void on the U.S. Ski Team.

However, a few standout U.S. skiers have excelled in her absence on the World Cup tour since she first crashed at the World Championships in February.

Here’s the quartet that will be the focus in Sochi Olympics, followed by international stars:

Mikaela Shiffrin

The 18-year-old is the reigning world champion and World Cup champion in the slalom. Yes, she’s been called the next Vonn, simply because they share the same nationality (and Colorado hometown of Vail) and sport.

But Shiffrin is very different from Vonn. She is a technical event skier — slalom and giant slalom — whereas Vonn is a speed queen — downhill and super-G.

Shiffrin has won two of four World Cup slaloms this season, but she’s now facing a challenge from one of her idols, Austrian Marlies Schild. Schild, 32, has also won two slaloms this season after coming back from tearing right knee ligaments on Dec. 20, 2012.

Schild won Olympic silver in 2010, World Championships gold in 2011 and four of six World Cup titles from 2007 through 2012.

Shiffrin has improved mightily in giant slalom over the last year to the point where she is now a medal contender in the event with second- and third-place finishes in World Cup races this season.

Ted Ligety

Vonn’s injury at the World Championships did not overshadow Ligety’s accomplishments in Schladming, Austria.

The 2006 Olympic combined champion became the first man in 45 years to win three gold medals at single World Championships, sweeping the super-G, giant slalom and super combined.

Ligety, 29, won the first two giant slaloms this World Cup season and seemed poised to be a heavy Olympic gold-medal favorite in the event. But Austrian rival Marcel Hirscher won the last two, setting up a sweet Sochi showdown.

Expecting multiple medals from Ligety in Sochi may be a bit much, though. He had never won a World Cup or World Championships race outside of giant slalom before that World Championships breakthrough.

He has not made a podium outside giant slalom this season, but Ligety has proven a big-event skier.

Bode Miller

Miller, 36, is the most decorated Olympic skier in American history with five medals, including one of every color at the 2010 Olympics.

He missed all of last season after knee surgery but has returned encouraging early results, including taking second behind Ligety at a giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Dec. 8.

Miller, now married to beach volleyball player Morgan Beck, looks to be the best U.S. medal hope in men’s downhill and super-G with a top-10 in each but no podium finishes this season.

Julia Mancuso

Mancuso has been silent on the World Cup tour this season with a best finish of 12th.

But she, like Ligety, is a proven star on the biggest stage. She won the 2006 Olympic giant slalom and took silver in the 2010 Olympic downhill and super combined.

Mancuso, 29, steps in for Vonn as the most notable American in the speed events of downhill and super-G. She’s the reigning world bronze medalist in the latter, having finished in the top three in World Cup super-G standings the previous three seasons.

International Women’s Stars

Maria Hoefl-Riesch, Germany

Vonn’s longtime friend and rival leads the World Cup overall standings and steps in as the Olympic downhill favorite, having won both downhills in Lake Louise, Alberta, in December when Vonn made her return.

Hoefl-Riesch was actually more successful than Vonn at the 2010 Olympics, winning gold medals in the super combined and slalom.

She’s won World Championships medals in downhill, super-G, super combined and slalom and could win four medals in Sochi if she’s in form.

Tina Weirather, Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein, a landlocked European country of some 40,000 people, has won nine Winter Olympic medals, all in Alpine skiing, but none since 1988.

Weirather has emerged as an all-around threat with podium finishes in downhill, super-G and giant slalom this World Cup season. She is the daughter of four-time Olympic medalist Hanni Wenzel.

Lara Gut, Switzerland

Gut shot out of the gates this World Cup season with wins in three of the first four races. She has cooled a bit since but looks like a medal threat in super-G and giant slalom.

She was 17 years old when she won two silver medals at the 2009 World Championships and looked like a major threat to Vonn’s dominance in the downhill until she suffered a hip injury in a September 2009 crash that kept her out of the 2010 Olympics.

Tina Maze, Slovenia

Maze put up the greatest campaign in Alpine skiing history in 2012-13, but the Slovenian singing sensation has been nowhere near that form this season and not won any races.

If Maze finds her spark over the next month, she could win a medal in every Olympic Alpine skiing event. If she doesn’t, she could leave Sochi empty handed.

Olympic goalie mask includes actual gold

Latest Posts
  1. Gwen Jorgensen wins seventh straight World Triathlon Series event

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:24 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    It marked Jorgensen’s largest margin of victory in her World Triathlon Series career.

  2. Meryl Davis, Charlie White won’t compete next season

    Mar 28, 2015, 8:42 PM EDT

    Meryl Davis, Charlie White Getty Images

    But they haven’t decided on the 2018 Olympics.

  3. Watch World Figure Skating Championships — 8 p.m. ET

    Mar 28, 2015, 7:00 PM EDT

    Gracie Gold Getty Images

    Terry Gannon, Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir and Tracy Wilson are on the call.

  4. Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman competitive with U.S. teammates in comeback

    Mar 28, 2015, 2:24 PM EDT

    Gabby Douglas

    How they fared against World champion Simone Biles.

  5. Javier Fernandez wins upset World Championship; top American fourth

    Mar 28, 2015, 11:44 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    “I don’t know if it’s going to ever happen again.”

  6. Elizaveta Tuktamysheva wins World Championship; U.S. just misses medals

    Mar 28, 2015, 10:53 AM EDT

    Elizaveta Tuktamysheva Getty Images

    Next year, Tuktamysheva can go for a feat not seen since 2001.

  7. U.S., Canada women’s hockey teams renew rivalry at World Championships

    Mar 27, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    AP AP

    The U.S. has a new former NHL player as head coach, is missing a major Sochi star and hopes to end a losing streak to Canada.

  8. How to watch Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman’s comeback gymnastics meet

    Mar 27, 2015, 10:13 AM EDT

    Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman Getty Images

    The Olympic champions are slated to compete for the first time since London 2012 this weekend.

  9. Yuzuru Hanyu tops World Championships short program; Jason Brown leads Americans

    Mar 27, 2015, 9:54 AM EDT

    Yuzuru Hanyu Getty Images

    The U.S. men are unlikely to secure three spots for the 2016 World Championships.

  10. Madison Chock, Evan Bates take ice dance silver at World Championships

    Mar 27, 2015, 9:53 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    A French couple became the youngest World champions in 40 years.

  11. U.S. women struggle, trail Russian brilliance after World Championships short program

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:14 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Elizaveta Tuktamysheva landed a triple Axel in one of the greatest short programs of all time.

  12. Canadians win World pairs title; best U.S. finish since 2011

    Mar 26, 2015, 10:01 AM EDT

    AP AP

    The last time Canada won a World title in pairs was before the 2002 judging scandal.

  13. U.S. pairs outside top five after World Championships short program

    Mar 25, 2015, 9:44 AM EDT

    AP AP

    A slight improvement could mark the best U.S. pairs finishes since 2002.

  14. Usain Bolt to race individually in U.S. for first time since 2008

    Mar 25, 2015, 9:13 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Bolt’s last appearance in New York produced his first world record.

  15. Madison Chock, Evan Bates top World Championships short dance with personal best

    Mar 25, 2015, 8:53 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    The Olympians could become the second U.S. ice dance couple to win a World Championship.

  16. Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir preview World Championships men’s, pairs events

    Mar 24, 2015, 5:15 PM EDT

    AP AP

    The Olympic and World champion returns to the site of a bloody collision.

  17. Boston 2024 calls for statewide referendum for Olympic bid

    Mar 24, 2015, 10:11 AM EDT

    Boston 2024

    Boston will not move forward with an Olympic bid if a majority of state and city residents don’t support it.

  18. Watch USA Luge video promoting fastest sport on ice

    Mar 24, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT

    USA Luge

    Olympians Erin Hamlin, Chris Mazdzer star in an inside look at the sport.

  19. U.S. would top 2016 Olympic medal standings in virtual projection

    Mar 24, 2015, 9:27 AM EDT

    Rio 2016

    Tuesday marked 500 days out from the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony.

  20. Tara Lipinski, Johnny Weir preview World Championships women’s, ice dance events

    Mar 23, 2015, 5:50 PM EDT

    Ashley Wagner, Gracie Gold, Polina Edmunds Getty Images

    Three U.S. women have a shot at the podium, and an American ice dance couple could win gold.