Right Idea, Wrong Winter

Reading Time: 3 minutes

From Fall 2005 issue

Unfortunately, making predictions for Ski Canada requires exactor talent and last winter was the perfect quinella. I basically eliminated all the male racers in the world but two, Miller and Raich, and said “pick one.” That much I had right, but I was wrong when I picked Raich. He took a mighty run at Miller and was not mathematically eliminated until the second last race of the winter in the World Cup Finals at Lenzerheide, Switzerland. But Miller prevailed in the end. The season before, I called Miller to win it all but he fi nished 4th. So I guess I had the right idea, just the wrong winter.

This year, the long-awaited Torino Olympic season, I’m suffering a confidence crisis of gothic and epic proportions when it comes to the male side of World Cup ski racing. I’m quivering with indecision, clueless at this point who will become the pick before I get to the end of this page.

Not so with the women. When it comes to female ski racers, I now feel bulletproof after three consecutive seasons of being right. Your 2006 female Weltmeister will be Croatia’s Janica Kostelic, so long as her “military knees” hold up. Military knees is a term invented years ago in Whistler to describe athletes who have had so many knee operations no one could ever recall which knee was hurt at any given time. First she injured her right knee, then her left, right, left, right, left…

Kostelic’s career was supposed to be over two years ago, then she came back last year just to see what she could do and nearly dethroned Paerson. If the injury bug bites Kostelic again and last year was a fluke injury-free season for her, then we go back to Paerson as your favourite with Minnesotan Lindsey Kildow as the possible longshot to challenge her. Kildow, just 21, may be a couple years away from taking the crown but, mark these words, that young lady is very, very good in all disciplines and will one day win it all.

Even though I was bullish on Paerson the last two seasons, a threepeat just doesn’t feel in the cards, especially if Kostelic is back on her game, er, knees.

And, oh the agony! Once again the male champion almost has to be either Miller or Raich. But which one?

By breaking through and winning his first, did Miller start a new Maier-type dynasty that will carry on for several years? Will he be motivated to win at least three, tying him with Phil Mahre as the greatest-ever American racer? Will he want to win four and stand alone as history’s top Yankee Doodle Dandy? Will the embarrassment of Austria losing the Weltmeister to an American motivate Raich to recapture the Globe for the central Alps where it historically belongs? Is there any chance Maier can pull off another miracle season and win his fi fth Weltmeister and tie Marc Girardelli’s record? He’s all but guaranteed this will be his last kick at the cat and what a glorious finale that would be.

Can you imagine what kind of hell this offseason must be for the Austrian ski team? To lose the Globe to another European country would be misery. To lose it to a brash, cocky American must be unbearable, especially if the coaches are reminding you of it every 15 minutes.

While it’s true ski racing has been historically cyclical with the Killy French dominant in the ’60s, the Sweet Swede (Stenmark) in the ’70s, the Zurbriggen Swiss in the ’80s and the Maier Austrians at the turn of the millennium, nobody is expecting Miller’s 2005 win to be the start of the American Era—especially the Austrians. And, yet, Bode beat on them like bongo drums on the way to his fi rst Globe and there was nothing they could do to prevent it.

So, with only 35 words to go, I still can’t decide who to pick.

Okay. Here goes.

Your 2006 World Cup Weltmeisters will be Kostelic and, uh, um, duh, shrug…Raich.

Doug Sack
To top