By Ben Jacoby ’22, Jaidev Pant ’21, and Ben Webber ’22
In this edition of Sports Roundtable, we discuss the Winter Olympics, which start on Feb. 9 in Pyeongchang, South Korea. In particular, we talk about the events and athletes to watch and the athletes.
Event to Watch
Webber: Slalom. The Slalom is an Alpine skiing event that involves skiing between poles known as gates. This event requires quick and short turns. The course for the slalom has 55 to 75 gates for men and 40 to 60 gates for women. When a racer is clearing a gate, the racer’s boots and skis must go around each gate but their body does not have to go around. Most racers use a technique called cross-blocking where the racer’s outside pole hits the gate, knocking it down and out of their way. The race is very steep, and the vertical drop for the race ranges from 180-220 meters for men and slightly less for the women. A few racers to look out for this year are Alberto Tomba (Italy), Phil Mahray (USA), Benjamin Raiche (Austria) and Mario Matt (Austria). All of these racers have won at least one gold medal and some have won silver or bronze. Thanks to these fantastic racers, their great technique and the amazing terrain, this should be the best event to watch.
Pant- Freestyle Aerials. Freestyle Aerials is a sport where skiers ski down from a hill and are launched up into the air. In the air, they perform many tricks, such as flips and 360s. It is a combination of skiing, diving and gymnastics. The scoring is just like gymnastics, as judges base their scores off of landing and tricks. The maximum score is 150 points. This is one of the more dangerous sports because a rough landing will cause a lot of pain due to the fact that athletes are able to get very high up into the air. The athletes to watch on the men’s side are Mac Bohonnon (USA), Anton Kushnir (Belarus), Jon Lillis (USA), Qi Guangpu (China) and Zhou Hang (China). The women athletes to watch are Ashley Caldwell (USA), Lydia Lassila (Australia), Kiley McKinnon (USA), Danielle Scott (Australia) and Xu Mengtao (China). Watching the athletes doing amazing tricks in the air makes freestyle aerials the event to watch in PyeongChang.
Athlete to Watch
Pant- Shaun White. At age 31, this will be Shaun White’s fourth Olympics. He is one of the most famous snowboarders to ever be in the Winter Olympics. His event is the Men’s Snowboarding Halfpipe. White was a child prodigy, receiving his first snowboarding sponsorship when he was seven years old. White is a dominant snowboarder as he has 13 X Games gold medals. He won back-to-back Olympic gold medals in 2006 and 2010. However, he finished fourth in Sochi in 2014, the first time he did not reach the Olympic podium. This was the first time in his career that he had been unsuccessful. The loss lit a fire inside White, who has been practicing new tricks for the 2018 Winter Olympics, but he suffered a setback in New Zealand during 2017. White was involved in a snowboarding accident and received 62 stitches. He has been working hard to recover from this injury in order to compete in this year’s olympics. He is considered a favorite to win a gold medal this year in Pyeongchang. White is the athlete to watch because of his popularity and his compelling story.
Webber- Lindsey Vonn. She is an American Alpine Skier who has won four world Championships. The only other woman to have ever achieved this is Annemarie Moser-Pröll. Vonn has won five disciplines of Alpine skiing including Downhill, Super-G, Combined, Giant Slalom and Slalom. When Vonn won the Downhill, she was the first American woman to ever do so. Vonn began skiing as a child in Minnesota and grew up skiing in Vale. By the time she was seven years old, she was skiing in Minnesota, Colorado and Oregon year-round. Vonn competed in the Olympics for the first time in 2002, when she was only 17. She raced both Slaloms and Combined that year in Salt Lake City. She is very popular and well known as a ski racer. Vonn has many great achievements and is considered the greatest female skier ever. Vonn did not compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics due to a knee injury, but she fully recovered. At age 33, this could possibly be her last Winter Olympics. She is going for gold and is expected to do well this year.
Mikaela Shiffrin- Alpine Skiing
In the 2014 Sochi Olympics, Mikaela Shiffrin took the world by storm, becoming the youngest person ever to win a gold in slalom skiing. Since then, she has dominated the FIS Alpine Skiing scene and has won 37 races in the last three years, along with 54 additional podium finishes. No one has dominated the sport like this for a long time, and it seems that no one else has come close to the level of skiing that she is at. When she won the world championship last year, she was ahead by 400 points. This is the highest winning point margin in the last 20 years.
Shiffrin said to Outside Magazine that she attributes her success to the way she trains and recovers. A normal day for her will include a two hour lift then an hour of ski training and a few extra hours of recreational skiing. That is all standard for a skier, but her secret is the two hours of sleep in between. She said that by sleeping in between training, it makes her muscle recovery better allowing each workout to be more effective. Shiffrin said that her time in the gym allows her to make explosive turns and use the turn as a way to gain speed, which is different from the standard way of gaining speed on the straightaways. Most skiers aren’t able to ski this aggressive style, but Shiffrin said to NBC Sports TV that her unique recovery and rehab tips allow her to ski and train this way on a daily basis and perform at her elite level. Overall, she will be successful at this years Olympic Games because there is no one in her sport who has been able to beat her at the world championship level, and since Shiffrin is racing against the same competition in the Olympics, there is no one who can come close. She hasn’t lost a single race in slalom or giant slalom so far in the FIS cup. Against the same competition in the Olympics, there is no doubt in my mind that she will win and collect gold for USA in Pyeongchang.