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2014 Winter Olympic Skiing - Alpine Ski Racing

A Look Back at 2013 World Cup Alpine Racing and the 2010 Winter Olympics

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2014 Winter Olympic Skiing - Alpine Ski Racing

Tina Maze

Getty Images

For complete coverage of 2014 Olympic Skiing, including events, competitors, schedules, and news go to 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Alpine Ski Racing Olympics Overview

I think the best way to analyze the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic ski races is to take a close look at the 2013 World Cup race season. Most of the ski racers competing in Sochi will be the veterans who have raced on their country's World Cup A Team.

2013 was a good barometer race year because, not only was it a tune-up for the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi, Russia, but it was also an FIS World Ski Championship year. The World Championships are conducted every other year and are held in high esteem in the ski racing world. Every ski racer dreams of Olympic and World Championship Gold.

2013 World Cup Standings

Let's see how the racers of competing nations did as far as total medals won and racers (men and women) finishing in positions 1-10 during the 2013 season in the Alpine Skiing events of Slalom, Giant Slalom, super G, Combined and Downhill. The following statistics are culled from the International Ski Federation (FIS) data base and generated by me. Left to right, find the Nation team, the Gold, Silver, Bronze medals won - the 4th-10th place finishes – and the Total Top 10 racer appearances.

Nation - Gold, Silver, Bronze - 4th-10th finishes - Total Top 10s

U.S.A.            18, 6, 9, 39 - 72
Austria            11, 27, 6, 17 - 42
Germany        11, 8, 5, 49 - 73
Italy                  6, 3, 9, 68 - 86
Norway             5, 3, 2, 24 - 34
France              4, 3, 9, 58 - 74
Croatia              2, 1, 4, 6 - 13
Slovakia            2, 1, 0, 6 - 9
Sweden            1, 10, 1, 47 - 59
Switzerland       1, 1, 5, 42 - 49
Liechtenstein    1, 0, 1, 5 - 7
Spain                1, 0, 0, 3 - 4
Canada             0, 1, 2, 20 - 23
Finland              0, 1, 1, 13 - 15
Japan                0, 0, 1, 2 - 3
Russia               0, 0, 0, 2 - 2
Netherlands       0, 0, 0, 1 - 1
Poland               0, 0, 0, 1 - 1
CzechRepublic  0, 0, 0, 1 - 1

A Ski Race - A Horse Race

Will this be the order the nations accumulate medals during the 2014 Olympics? I don't think so. Based on the Olympic "fever" that burns in every athlete it is better to look at the five Alpine events for the men and ladies as five Kentucky Derby horse races. Only the top world class racers will race, but on any given day someone out of the blue can win.

There are favorites and there are "also competing." Favorites fall, hometown racers know the course better, fog rolls in, many what-ifs can and do happen, but I would pay special attention to the top favorites.

2014 Olympic Skiing Competitors

I think it is fair to say that most of the 2013 racers will be back competing trying to peak at Olympic race time - including top racers who were injured in 2013 but will be back to race in 2014 World Cup competition. There will be a few mentionable retirements, but for the most part the 2013 top men and the 2013 top women racers will be returning.

It is also fair to say that competing nation teams that put no racers in the top ten at any World Cup event stand little chance of medaling at the 2014 Winter Olympics.

That's not to say it's impossible because some good racers may be eligible to race under a different flag. For instance an American ski racer not on the U.S. Ski Team and born in Jamaica can choose to race for Jamaica. However, that skier is a long shot to medal.

Look At The Statistics

Of course, at first glance the U.S. team looks overwhelming. However, remember that we are dealing with races that are timed to the hundredth of a second. I've seen results where the top seven racers are within a tenth of a second of each other.

Interestingly, take a look at Italy - only 18 medals on the 2013 World Cup circuit but 68 times Italy's racers finished in the 4th-10th positions  - only hundredths or tenths of a second off a podium.

2009 World Cup Season Nations and 2010 Winter Olympics Medal Count

Now look at the 2009 FIS World Cup alpine racing season medal count and position 4-10 finishes:

Nation - Gold, Silver, Bronze - 4th-10th finishes - Total Top 10s

Austria - 18, 22, 17 - 96 - 152
Switzerland- 12, 9, 13 - 80 - 114
Italy - 10, 11, 8 - 60 - 89
USA - 10, 9 , 5 - 32 - 56
France - 7, 5, 2 - 45 - 59
Germany - 6, 3, 6 - 24 - 39
Sweden - 3, 3, 8 - 51 - 65
Norway - 3, 2, 3 - 14 - 22
Slovenia - 2, 1, 3 - 22 - 28
Finland - 1, 4 , 3 - 9 - 17
Croatia - 1, 3, 3 - 13 - 20
Canada - 1, 1 3 - 39 - 44
Czechia - 1, 0, 2 - 7 - 10
Liechtenstein - 0, 1, 0 - 2 - 3
Slovakia - 0, 0, 0 - 2 - 2
Spain - 0 , 0, 0 - 1 - 1
Great Britain - 0, 0, 0 - 1 - 1
Russia - 0, 0, 0 - 1 - 1

Canada, the home team for the 2010 Winter Olympics, had only 5 podiums but 39 times in 4th-10th and a lot of practice time on the home course. Now look at the total medal count for the men and women alpine racers for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics:

Nation - Gold, Silver, Bronze - 4th-10th finishes - Total Top 10s

Germany            3, 0, 0, 6  - 9
USA                   2, 3, 3, 5  - 13
Switzerland        2, 1, 0, 9  - 12
Norway              1, 2, 1, 1  - 5
Austria               1, 1, 2, 17 - 21
Italy                    1, 0, 0, 10 - 11
Slovenia             2, 0, 0, 4  - 6
Croatia               0, 2, 0, 1  - 3
Sweden              0, 0, 2, 1  - 3
Czech Republic  0, 0, 1, 2  - 3
France                0, 0, 0, 7  - 7
Canada              0, 0, 0, 4  - 4
Liechtenstein      0, 0, 0, 1  - 1
Slovakia             0, 0, 0, 1  - 1
Finland               0, 0, 0, 1  - 1

Look at Germany - first in gold medals but only nine total medals - and Austria with only one gold but twenty-one total medals. Following these Olympic Winter Games, rest assured that in their fan-crazy homelands both of these nation teams got a tongue lashing because, if you will, nine is not a lot for Germany and as for Austria - with racers finishing seventeen times in the 4-10 category it compares to the Yankees stranding seventeen men on the bases in a World Series loss.

However, the U.S.A. did just what it set out to do - be the best in total podiums - racking up eight podiums to the nearest competitor's four. In perspective, the U.S. medal and top ten counts is really impressive when you consider the U.S.A. is a nation where alpine racing is not a primary sport as compared to the European countries wherein alpine racing is as sacred as soccer.

Remember Canada with the home court advantage? They garnished no medals in Vancouver, nor did France, whose racers had a healthy medal count of 14 during the 2009 season. Jump to Sochi, where home hill won't be a big issue - the courses are fairly new and not a lot of race time for anybody - and you can see the 2014 Winter Games alpine racing competition can present a lot of wide open competition.

2014 World Cup Alpine Racing Season

Of course, what the racers do during the season leading up to an Olympic event is very, very important but funny things happen at the 'Big Dance' and any prior Olympic or World Ski Championship experience is a good barometer of how the individuals handle the pressure when 'the whole world is watching.'

In perspective, watch the top racers from the top nations for medal counts, but don't be surprised at surprises.

Read More: 2014 Winter Olympics  | Alpine Ski Teams Listed by Country | Olympic Skiing Events

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