Now that the 2012-2015 World Cup season is underway, I plan to start interspersing analyses of the technique of racers such as Ligety, Maze, Vonn, Shiffrin, Hosp and Velez Zuzzuolva. There is an emerging trend towards the extension-pendulum effect technique that is the signature of Ligety and Shiffrin.
After indicating before the start of the season that she would make her debut in World Cup Super-G this year, Shiffrin recently announced that she would not compete in the Super-G in Val d’sere next week but would instead focus on GS. This came after Shiffrin’s worst drought since her the first of her 10 World Cup victories two years ago. I suspect that Shiffrin’s difficulties can be attributed to a change in some aspect of her equipment, most likely her boots. She looked much closer to her usual form in Are last Saturday. If the source of her problems was, in fact, in her boots and this has been corrected, I am confident that she will regain her form in the new year. Focussing on GS is a smart move by Shiffrin. If Shiffrin can dominate in GS she has an excellent chance of winning in Super-G.
One of the challenges in analyzing technique using video clips is that the camera angles and image quality are typically far from ideal. In addition, cameras often switch at key moments in a sequence, usually part way through the transition phase that starts at the end of a turn. Finding a sequence that illustrates the mechanics, biomechanics and physics of skiing can take hours of frame by frame analysis followed by additional hours of work annotating and animating the key images. More interesting than the racers who are very close to getting every aspect of a technique right are those who make the essentially the right moves at initiation only to have to resort to survival tactics usually due to interference from their ski boots.
Since extension is a hot topic on the internet, mainly due to Ligety’s very effective use of it, extension will be the subject of my next post.