FIS Alpine Season Review

02 May 2017 15:02
Mikaela Shiffrin and Marcel Hirscher
Mikaela Shiffrin and Marcel Hirscher -
FIS

It’s been another thrilling Audi FIS Ski World Cup season with 74 races in 29 different venues, ending with the Finals in Aspen, where young Mikaela Shiffrin grabbed her first Overall title, while Marcel Hirscher wrote history by becoming the first athlete to win the Overall globe six times in a row.

2016/17 was also marked by the 2017 FIS World Ski Championships in St. Moritz and by the 50 years of the World Cup, an anniversary celebrated all over the World Cup Tour. On the eve of the exact birthday - the 5th January 1967 - not less than 20 Overall winners and most World Cup Organisers gathered in Zagreb for an extraordinary event commemorating those 50 successful years.

Weather proved to be challenging again this season, forcing Lake Louise, Beaver Creek, Courchevel, Santa Caterina, Altenmarkt-Zauchensee and Wengen to cancel or reschedule at least one of their events.

However, thanks to the flexibility and professionalism of the World Cup organisers, the support of TV broadcasters and media, the dedication of the World Cup sponsors, the passion and assiduity of the teams and the ski industry, the athletes could compete in the best possible conditions and delight us with outstanding performances. 

News this season 

Two new organisers made their debut on the World Cup Tour: The East Coast resort Killington (USA, Vermont) hosted tech events for the first time and the ladies also made a first stop in the Italian resort Kronplatz for a giant slalom. The Tour also went back to two Olympic venues in Italy and the US, with Sestrière and Squaw Valley (USA, California) organising tech events.

A new starting order for the speed disciplines was introduced this season to improve TV numbers. The Top 10 athletes got to choose their start number between the even numbers between 1 and 19. Tactics became important, and fairness was respected, as racers ended at the very top of the podium with almost all available numbers. 

Biggest winners 

Mikaela Shiffrin is only 22, but she warned her contenders: she wants to win the Overall someday. As in the past few years, Shiffrin dominated the tech disciplines. She was almost unbeatable in slalom, ending 275 points ahead of her closest rival, and skied constant and solid in the GS, letting the globe go only in the very last race. But this season, the US ski star also made a huge step forward in the speed disciplines, where she was able to hold on with many specialists and even claimed an impressive fourth place in the super-g in Cortina! In the end, the battle for the Overall globe was a close call between her and Slovenia’s Ilka Stuhec, but in the week of her 22nd birthday, Mikaela Shiffrin claimed her first Overall season title.

Six in a row! This is a record that won’t be broken for a while, “one that holds at least six year” as Marcel Hirscher, Audi FIS Ski World Cup champion 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, would say. The 28-year-old Austrian has been remarkably strong this season again, finishing out of the podium only three times in his favourite disciplines slalom and giant slalom (two 4th and a 6th place). This consistency throughout the season was awarded with a total of 16 podiums including 6 wins, and offered him his sixth Overall World Cup globe in a row, a feat never achieved before. 

Biggest newcomers 

Ilka Stuhec and Sofia Goggia. You probably heard those names before, since both of them had been on the World Cup Tour for a few years already, but no podium under their belt yet. The 2016/17 turned it all around for them! Together, the 26-year-old Slovenian Ilka Stuhec and the 24-year-old Italian Sofia Goggia scored 26 podiums, including not less than nine wins, and claimed the second and third place in the Overall season podium! That’s a pretty steep performance curve that clearly points upwards.

On the men’s side, the top positions were mostly claimed by World Cup regulars, but some athletes were able to grab their first career podiums this season: Mauro Caviezel (SUI, 88), Leif Kristian Haugen (NOR, 87), Linus Strasser (GER, 92), Matts Olsson (SWE, 88), Dave Ryding (GBR, 86), Cyprien Sarrazin (FRA, 94) and we had an incredible trio of maiden podium contenders in Wengen AC with Niels Hintermann (SUI, 95), Maxence Muzaton (FRA, 90) and Frederic Berthold (AUT, 91). But the one athlete that could really establish himself within the best of his discipline, is slalom whiz and current 5th of the WCSL Michael Matt (AUT, 93) who claimed two podium placements (Levi and Aspen) and a win in Kransjka Gora. 

Best storyline 

Unfortunately, the season has also been marked by numerous injuries, also from some prominent athletes. In the January, as he was leading the downhill and 5th in the Overall standings, Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal decided to put an end to his season due to a serious knee injury that required surgery. Lara Gut also had to sit out the rest of the season following a torn ACL and damaged meniscus sustained in February. At that point, she was second in the Overall, first in the super-g, second in the downhill and third in the giant slalom standings!

Among others, Eva Maria Brem, Anna Veith, Julia Mancuso, Conny Hütter, Ted Ligety, Steven Nymann, Fritz Dopfer, Thomas Fanara and Christof Innerhofer also had to step back for a longer period due to different injuries. 

Retirements 

Sarka Strachova (CZE 85)
Fabienne Suter (SUI, 85)
Lotte Smiseth Sejersted (NOR, 91)
Leanne Smith (USA, 87)
Marion Pellissier (FRAU, 88)
Laurie Mougel (FRAU, 88)
Merle Soppela (FIN, 91)

Klaus Kroell (AUT, 80)
Georg Streitberger (AUT, 81)
Jens Byggmark (SWE, 85)
Marc Gini (SUI, 84)
Joachim Puchner (AUT, 87)
Anton Lahdenperae (SWE, 85)
Christoph Nösig (AUT, 85) 

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