US Alpine Skiing Team 2014: Top Stories from Team USA at Sochi Olympics

Kenny DeJohn@@kennydejohnAnalyst IIIFebruary 12, 2014

United States' Julia Mancuso celebrates as finishes the slalom portion of the women's supercombined to win the bronze medal at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014, in Krasnaya Polyana, Russia. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Luca Bruno/Associated Press

Having only won one medal through several days of action, Team USA's alpine skiing team has been a bit of a disappointment at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. As such, there have been a few interesting stories surrounding the alpine skiing team at the Games.

The team is comprised of several veteran Olympians who have competed on this stage before. That made nearly every member of the team a threat to the other competing countries. Some of the biggest names in the sport represent Team USA, and their overall lack of success thus far has been shocking to say the least.

It hasn't been all bad, as the team does have one bronze medal to show for itself. There are still several events to go before the end of the 2014 Games, so the athletes will have plenty of opportunities to atone for their previous performances.

There will surely be more pertinent stories made over the remainder of the Olympics, but here are the top ones so far.

Bode Miller's Disappointing Run

At Sunday's men's downhill event, Bode Miller was expecting to signal to the world that he was in the midst of a comeback. The 36-year-old is one of Team USA's most decorated winter athletes, but he didn't perform anywhere near his expectations in the event.

The five-time Olympic medalist finished eighth overall in the event that saw Austrian Matthias Mayer win the gold. Miller started strong out of the gate after dominating training sessions, but then he did something risky. Bill Pennington of the New York Times breaks down the brief sequence of events:

But Miller, faster in the scary steeps and smoother off the soaring jumps, then did something he vowed to avoid. He unnecessarily chased an extra millisecond, slamming his head and shoulder into a gate panel to cut off a precious few feet of the plunging descent.

It was a miscalculation of time and place.

Pennington added an even better explanation as to why Miller finished the course slower than expected: 

It was slower for the most paradoxical reasons—at that juncture of the course, the downhill went uphill. With his momentum impeded by contact with the gate, Miller slowed into the incline of a big jump known as the Bear’s Brow.

Miller didn't take the loss all that well, though he did take to Twitter to congratulate a few of his competitors:

There's nothing wrong with taking risks, but Miller's dominant training runs should have given him a good indication of what to expect on the course during race time. Miller probably should have stuck to the exact patterns that got him through his training runs.

Instead, Miller finished the event without a medal.

Julia Mancuso's Record-Tying Bronze Medal

Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press

Julia Mancuso has been Team USA's lone success story. She earned a bronze medal in the women's super combined, as Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany took gold and Nicole Hosp of Austria took silver.

Nathaniel Vinton of the New York Daily News points out that it was a historic performance:

The record-setting performance (it is Mancuso’s fourth medal in three Olympics) makes her a podium favorite in Wednesday’s downhill, where she could match Bode Miller’s American record of five.

The 29-year-old is the third American to win medals at three consecutive Winter Olympics. She won gold at the slalom event in 2006 at Torino and two silver medals at the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

Mancuso endured a very difficult race to earn a spot on the podium, and she recognized just how difficult the run actually was (via Vinton): "I skied my heart out,” said Mancuso. “That was really tough. It was a really, really difficult slalom run. I knew I just had to give my best shot. It sure didn’t feel good.”

Unfortunately, Mancuso followed up that performance with an eighth-place finish in women's downhill on Wednesday. Apparently, the Americans have a thing for finishing eighth in downhill events.

Ted Ligety's Quest to Reign Supreme in Men's Super Combined

Ted Ligety is a heavy favorite to win gold at the super combined event based on his strengths between the gates, and his recent performances would suggest that he's the guy who the field will be chasing.

The defending World Champion in the event, Ligety won the gold medal at the Wengen championships on Jan. 17. In 2013, Ligety won three gold medals at the World Championships. He's ready to repeat that success in Sochi. He told Michael C. Lewis of the Salt Lake Tribune that he's good to go: "I’m feeling like similar to how I did last year," he said. "I don’t know if it will equal the same results—that would be nice—but I’m definitely feeling like I’m well-prepared."

Team USA will be relying on Ligety to win a few medals after his teammates failed to produce much in earlier events. Because of his performances in both the super-G and giant slalom at the 2013 World Championships, he's a favorite to medal in those events as well.

The Americans don't need an enormous haul from him, as there are plenty other events for Team USA to perform well in. That being said, a gold or two would certainly help make up for only having a bronze as a team through several events.

Look for Ligety to stay on top in the super combined and possibly in his other two events as well.


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