Resi Stiegler does a little Aspen gate bashing in 2010 (Getty Images/Doug Pensinger)
ASPEN, CO (Nov. 23) – Olympic medalist and NBC analyst Christin Cooper weighed in on the upcoming Nature Valley Aspen Winternational, but it's always good to have a second opinion when it comes to experts.
Meet Steve Porino, fellow NBC Olympics expert and U.S. Ski Team alum. He took a look at Cooper's notes and has a few of his own to share prior to the Sunday, Nov. 27 national broadcast at 1 p.m. on NBC.
Rough History "My colleague Christin Cooper makes some pretty bold statements about the challenge of the track in Aspen GS being the toughest of the tough," says Porino. "I should point out that she can see the orange serpent of fencing from the deck of her Aspen digs. Some might cry homer, but I see it her way (and I so wanted to disagree). It drops and lunges and swings like no other track on the tour. It has a nasty reputation for spitting out skiers, particularly if they taste American. In 34 races contested over the last 60 years, the U.S. has won but once … 30 years ago when Coop’s teammate Tamara McKinney won the GS in the spring of ‘81.
Solo Shot "It’s not easy to win at home simply based on the numbers. The World Cup visits the U.S. once a year, and the U.S. hasn’t fielded a favorite in GS since McKinney. It’s also a discipline loaded with specialist, making it tough for all-arounders like Lindsey Vonn and Julia Mancuso to break away. To wit, Vonn’s first 41 World Cup wins came in every discipline but GS. That changed in this year’s opener in Soelden, Austria. Her 42nd win was on the last GS hill anyone might have predicted – steep. Vonn has had reasonable success on flat hills, but the Soelden win makes her a threat anywhere. Then add the motivation. Vonn has the most World Cup wins of any American, Olympic and World Championship wins a plenty, but she’s never won at home.
Vonn's Home Snow "There’s another novelty playing into U.S. hands. The second race of the season in Finland was canceled. That race has never suited the U.S. because it interrupts perfect Colorado training with an 8 time-zone trek to the Arctic Circle. A three-day jaunt for the Europeans is a week or more of travel and recovery for Americans. This year Vonn spent the last three weeks in the comfort of her Vail home, enjoying the world’s best training conditions just out her door. Meanwhile Europe has no snow. I don’t think Vonn or the U.S. has been in a better position to win in 30 years."
Mancuso's Wheels "Cooper saw it, I heard it: Julia Mancuso has found another gear since the opening race in Austria. When I hear that, I take note. This is a skier who rarely shows her speed in training and seems to divine Olympic and World Championship medals without warning. Whatever she shows in training, there’s always more for race day. That day Cooper saw her in Aspen, the coaches pulled the video of her opening run last year in Aspen when she was .03 seconds behind the lead. It didn’t compare; she’s much faster now they said. That I’d like to see. There may be nothing more potent than these two vying for a first American win in three decades."
Stay tuned folks. Racing starts Saturday in Aspen with giant slalom, followed by a slalom on Sunday and then it all gets sent to your TV via NBC at 1 p.m. ET on Sunday, Nov. 27.