Weibrecht to ski two races in Sochi
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Andrew Weibrecht won’t ski the first alpine ski race of the Sochi Winter Olympics, but the Lake Placid native is expected to compete in two other disciplines later in the games.
Weibrecht’s name was on the start sheet for Thursday’s first official downhill training at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, and he was also among the U.S. ski racers who were scheduled to participate in a press conference later in the day at the Gorki Media Center.
However, Weibrecht wasn’t even in the Sochi area Thursday. He’s not scheduled to arrive until next week, and his name getting on the lists was apparently just a communications mix-up.
U.S. alpine head coach Sasha Rearick said today that Weibrecht will race in the super-giant slalom and the super combined.
“He’s been skiing with Ted (Ligety) at a private camp in Austria with (U.S. coach) Forest Carey,” Rearick said. “They’ve been training well. They had four days of excellent training in super-G, GS and slalom. (Weibrecht’s) focus is getting ready for the super combined and super-G. He’ll roll in here next week.”
The first men’s alpine race of the Sochi games, the downhill, is set for 11 a.m. Sunday. The super combined is set for Friday, Feb. 14. The super combined will be a shortened downhill run in the late morning followed by an afternoon slalom race. The super-G is set for Sunday, Feb. 16.
Four years ago, Weibrecht won a surprise bronze medal in super-G at the Vancouver Olympics. He had never made the podium in a World Cup race before.
Since Vancouver, however, Weibrecht has struggled to bounce back from a string of injuries. One of his other challenges has been his ability to properly read the mountain.
“He’s been skiing well,” said Rearick, who’s been working with Weibrecht for two years. “Now it’s about executing on game plan. The focus is going to be on getting him to inspect the course and put down the run that he can on that one run that he has that day. When he does that, we all know he can be fast.”
Thursday’s press conferences for the men’s and women’s alpine speed teams were led by U.S. ski team chief alpine press officer Doug Haney of Saranac Lake. The conferences were heavy with questions for two of the team’s big stars at these games: Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso.
Earlier in the day, Miller had clocked the fastest time in the first official men’s downhill training run at Rosa Khutor. The 36-year-old New Hampshire native posted a time of 2:07.75, but he wasn’t about to guarantee a podium finish.
“It’s great to win the first training run, but it really is going to be about who improves the most from here, who learns this course the best,” Miller said.
This is the fifth Olympics for Miller, who also has five Olympic medals: a gold, three silvers and a bronze. He was overall World Cup champion in 2005 and 2008 and is considered the most successful male American alpine ski racer of all time. He has 33 overall World Cup victories and is one of only five men in history to win World Cup events in all five disciplines.
Asked Thursday how much these races mean to him, given all he’s accomplished, Miller said some of his younger competitors may have an advantage over him because they may be more fired up about competing on the Olympic stage.
“I’m hoping my focus and my intensity can carry me through,” Miller said. “For me, I can’t say I’m not excited. I’m really excited and hopefully the opening ceremonies will stir some of my emotions also, but I’ve definitely kind of been here and done this. Not to take anything away from the Olympics, but it just isn’t the same after you’ve done it as many times as I have.”
Mancuso, a three-time Olympian who’s won a gold and two silvers, took third in Thursday’s women’s downhill training run with a time of 1:42.11. Austria’s Anna Fenninger was first, and Switzerland’s Fraenzi Aufdenblatten was second.
Mancuso said she’s excited to compete in these Olympic games.
“My Olympic experience is exciting, and I just get fueled by the energy,” she said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s my first time or my fourth time. I feel the same. Where the Olympics are also adds to the allure and fun.”
Several questions for the women’s squad surrounded the absence of their teammate Lindsey Vonn from these Olympics. Vonn, the reigning Olympic and World Cup downhill champion, decided in January to skip the games after failing to make a full recovery from a knee injury she first suffered in February 2013.
“We definitely miss Lindsey,” Mancuso said. “She’s a big presence on our team, and she’s always the one to beat. You definitely feel that she’s not here. But it also leaves a lot of opportunity for everyone else, too.”