January 6, 2013

Demong, US claim bronze in Germany


---- — SCHONACH, Germany (AP) — Memories of Olympic silver in Vancouver were rekindled Saturday as the U.S. Nordic Combined Ski Team charged back onto the podium finishing third. It was an historic first World Cup team event podium for the U.S. Ski Team.

The USA started sixth in cross country, 57 seconds behind Norway, which ultimately went on to win. The USA slowly moved up through the pack with Bryan Fletcher, Taylor Fletcher, Todd Lodwick (all Steamboat Springs) and Billy Demong (Vermontville) pacing to pass Austria to take third place.

Taylor Fletcher (second leg) and Demong (anchor) each won their respective relay legs. The USA had a good launching pad for the effort thanks to a strong 94.5 meter jump from Demong, who led his group in jumping. Taylor Fletcher’s 12:39.4 was the fastest cross country leg of the day.

Lodwick and Demong are veterans of the silver medal winning relay team at the Vancouver Olympic Winter Games. The best previous World Cup team event finish came in 2002 at Val di Fiemme when Lodwick, Demong and Matt Dayton (Breckenridge, CO) finished fourth.

“Today was a one of those days where you don’t have too many expectations but as a team we knew we could break up the podium if we focused on the process and all did what we could,” Demong said

“It was super exciting and tactical as we moved through the field. It was never clear that we would podium until it was over but each guy picked up time and places and did the job necessary.

“It is an historic first relay podium for the U.S. in a World Cup and a great way to get a first podium for the year.”

American teen wins

World Cup slalom

ZAGREB, Croatia (AP) — American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin is having a breakthrough World Cup season on the slopes.

She’s the first American to win two World Cup races before turning 18. The 17-year-old Shiffrin captured her second career World Cup victory at Friday’s night slalom, sending her to the top of the slalom standings.

“I am just trying to find the edge of what I can ski,” Shiffrin told The Associated Press. “I am having a very good year. I am very excited about it and I am always hungry for more. ... I am really happy and I know anything can happen.”

Voted World Cup rookie of the year last season by her peers, Shiffrin has lived up to expectations. In 12 races so far, she won twice and recorded six more top-10 finishes.

She’s also ahead of Lindsey Vonn as the top American in the overall standings — although Vonn just returned to training after a monthlong break to recover from an intestinal illness.

Along with the victories have come the limelight — and the prize money — but Shiffrin is determined to not let it get to her head. The victory in Zagreb increased Shiffrin’s earnings to fifth on the season’s money ranking list with $117,500.

“I am still going to do the same thing,” said Shiffrin, who was born in the ski area of Vail, Colo. “I have to remember that I am only 17 and I feel like a baby sometimes and I don’t hide that.”

She travels the circuit accompanied by her mother Eileen — “my biggest help, she keeps me grounded and focused.”

“I have always wanted to sleep really deeply and not really worry,” Shiffrin said. “I know that some things are going to work and turn out fine. It’s not the end of the world.”

The same approach has helped her to keep a positive mind on the slopes.

After six races — including the Munich city event on New Year’s Day that counted as a slalom — Shiffrin has 336 points, followed by overall World Cup leader Tina Maze of Slovenia with 310 and Veronika Velez Zuzulova of Slovakia with 305.

“It’s still so far away, there is still a couple of races and a lot more training days,” Shiffrin said. “I just have to stay in the moment because that’s what’s working so far and what keeps me grounded. It’s definitely one of my goals but it will be difficult to hold on to this bib.”

U.S. women’s technical coach Roland Pfeifer has been impressed with Shiffrin’s improvement in her second year at top-level racing.

“She is progressing rapidly,” said Pfeifer, who is looking forward to see what Shiffrin can do at next month’s world championships. I’d say it’s really promising on the way to Schladming.”