The USA Alpine Ski Team entered the Olympics with confidence. After their amazing showing at the 2010 games in Vancouver, Team USA was ready to add to their medal count and live up to the hype of being the best team on the hill. Unfortunately, Sochi has been nowhere near the paradise Vancouver was for the USA Alpine Ski team.
Team USA put up another blank slate today when they failed to medal in the women’s Super-G competition. Instead, it was time for Austria’s skiers to prove that Vancouver had been a fluke for them. After dominating the sport for several Olympics, Team Austria took second fiddle to Team USA in Canada. Many avid viewers of the sport saw this turn of events as a changing of the guard in the world’s ski arena. Today, Austria took home two more medals to move their count to four at the halfway point of the alpine ski events. Team USA has barely taken home one.
Austria’s Anne Fenninger completed almost a perfect run on the slopes to walk away from the super-G with a gold medal. Her countrywoman, Nicole Hosp, took home the bronze. Both women attacked the vicious Super-G course with a passion, despite it causing almost half of the entrants to wipe out and not finish. The lone American to cross the finish line was Julia Mancuso, who finished in eighth place. Mancuso has the only medal in Alpine Ski for the American team so far, barely capturing a bronze earlier this week in the super-combined.
Team USA has suffered several setbacks since reaching the Olympics a few weeks ago. Lindsey Vonn was supposed to lead the USA Alpine Ski Team in to paradise at Sochi, but has been nowhere near the competition. She announced her withdrawal from the games before competition started. However, despite her unfortunate knee injury, the Americans were in high spirits that those who would compete could fill the void that Vonn left. She won two of the eight medals for the Alpine Team in Vancouver. However, those that have stepped up to replace her have fallen far short of her performance.
Others who were expected to have strong finishes at the games have also struggled mightily. Bode Miller, the odds on favorite to win multiple golds at Sochi has looked impressive in practice rounds. Yet he has made a major blunder in every competition he has raced, causing him to fall from medal contention. Mancuso’s bronze medal was even more shocking than Miller’s lack of one. She was not projected to place in the super-combined competition, but made her mark with an impressive run that could have won her gold.
Team USA is far from being conquered. With half of the competition still to go, they have strong medal hopes in every remaining event. Miller will look to get the ball rolling on Sunday in the men’s super-G. Hopefully, Team USA can finish strong and make up the three medals they are trailing the Austrians by. If they don’t, it will be a long four years until they can prove their prowess once again. Meantime, the USA Alpine Ski Team will sit and ponder why their trip to Sochi has been nowhere near the paradise they expected it to be.
By Chris Chisam