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. Simone Biles returns to Secret Classic a different gymnast

    Aug 1, 2014, 11:05 AM EDT

    Simone Biles AP

    Texan hasn’t competed since winning World Championship all-around in October.

  2. U.S. Swimming Championships entry lists released

    Jul 31, 2014, 7:05 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte AP

    Which events are Phelps, Lochte, Franklin and Ledecky entered in?

  3. German amputee long jumper won’t fight European Championships exclusion

    Jul 31, 2014, 1:19 PM EDT

    Markus Rehm AP

    Markus Rehm insists he has no competitive advantage.

  4. Meryl Davis, Charlie White to be grand marshals at NASCAR race

    Jul 31, 2014, 11:47 AM EDT

    Sochi Olympics Figure Skating AP

    Ice dancers continue whirlwind post-Olympic tour.

  5. Meb Keflezighi, Caroline Wozniacki to run New York City Marathon

    Jul 31, 2014, 9:08 AM EDT

    Meb Keflezighi AP

    Boston Marathon winner Keflezighi returns to site of 2009 triumph.

  6. Adelina Sotnikova: I want to show I deserved to be Olympic champion

    Jul 31, 2014, 8:31 AM EDT

    Adelina Sotnikova Reuters

    “After the Olympics I grew up,” Sotnikova told RIA Novosti.

  7. U.S. swimming rankings going into National Championships

    Jul 30, 2014, 1:30 PM EDT

    Michael Phelps AP

    Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, Missy Franklin, Katie Ledecky slated for meet in Irvine, Calif., next week.

  8. UCLA track and field stadium flooded (photos)

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:42 AM EDT

    Drake Stadium

    Water main break sent up to 10 million gallons of water around campus.

  9. U.S. pairs figure skaters throw unusual ceremonial first pitch (video)

    Jul 30, 2014, 11:11 AM EDT

    Felicia Zhang, Nate Bartholomay AP

    Felicia Zhang and Nate Bartholomay have ended their pairs partnership but teamed up at Tropicana Field.

  10. German long jump champion, a Paralympian, left off European Championships roster

    Jul 30, 2014, 10:35 AM EDT

    Ulm German Athletics Championships Getty Images

    German track and field president said the jumper could gain a “catapult effect.”

  11. Jonathan Horton enters P&G Championships

    Jul 30, 2014, 9:49 AM EDT

    Jonathan Horton Getty Images

    Every 2012 Olympian and 2013 World Championships team member is in the field.

  12. Chinu Xxx wins Commonwealth Games bronze; how the wrestler got his name

    Jul 29, 2014, 5:20 PM EDT

    Chinu XXX Getty Images

    It became Xxx at a passport office, according to the BBC.

  13. Mayor Marty Walsh says Boston in ‘very good position’ for 2024 bid

    Jul 29, 2014, 4:35 PM EDT

    Marty Walsh Getty Images

    Boston is one of four finalist cities for a potential U.S. bid for the 2024 Olympics.

  14. Olympic golf update from IGF VP Ty Votaw (video)

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:34 PM EDT

    Ty Votaw Getty Images

    Officials hope to hold test event in late 2015 or early 2016.

  15. Eddy Alvarez heats up in Arizona League

    Jul 29, 2014, 3:02 PM EDT

    Eddy Alvarez

    Olympic silver medalist speed skater hit his first two professional home runs.

  16. Royals photobomb, meet Usain Bolt at Commonwealth Games

    Jul 29, 2014, 11:14 AM EDT

    Prince Harry

    Prince Harry follows the Queen’s lead in Glasgow.

  17. Watch 41-shot rally, crazy table tennis celebrations at Commonwealth Games

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:41 AM EDT

    Gao Ning Getty Images

    Scottish player pulls off a “wedgie” celebration.

  18. Nigerian weightlifter, 16, fails drug test after winning Commonwealth Games gold

    Jul 29, 2014, 10:02 AM EDT

    Chika Amalaha AP

    Chika Amalaha may be stripped of her gold after becoming the youngest women’s weightlifting champion in Commonwealth Games history.