The Men’s World Cup Slalom held in Adelboden on January 11, 2015 saw Italy’s Stefano Gross edge out Germany’s Fritz Dopfer by 2/100 of a second and Austria’s Marcel Hirscher by 3/100 of second. In my opinion, Italy’s Patrick Thaler looked better than the racers who made the podium. But he failed to finish the second run. Meantime, Ted Ligety was missing from the podium…… again, finishing a distant 22nd, over 2 second behind Gross. Has he suffered a fate similar to what Shiffrin experienced at the beginning of this season? Did he make changes to his equipment before the season like Shiffrin? Shiffrin has since recovered. Will Ligety?
If Shiffrin’s mantra is Get Over It and Stay Over It, it appears as if the mantra of the men is Get Behind It. The photos below compare Shiffrin on the left to Stefano Gross on the right. Both racers are in the fall line. Even though the inclination of the slope Shiffrin is on is much steeper than the inclination of the slope Gross is on, Shiffrin’s COM is Over It (as in over the head of her first metatarsal in both the long and transverse aspects) while Gross’ COM is Behind It.
The alignment or lack of alignment becomes obvious when the slope is neutralized to level the playing field.
The following video clip compares the techniques of Gross and Hirscher.
Instead of moving forward in the hips as Shiffrin does (Up and Over), both Gross and Hirscher project their feet ahead of them as their COM moves into the new turn. It is not until the apex of the turn that their COM gets anywhere near being over their outside foot. This technique works. In fact, a racer can win races using it. But it is only a winning technique so long as all racer’s are using it. The problem is that from a point of mechanics, biomechanics and physics, it doesn’t align the load W emanating from COM and the resultant force R with the proximate centre of the head of the first metatarsal of the outside foot which is, in turn aligned over the inside edge of the outside ski. If the men are using a learned technique then why is their stance at ski flat so different from the stance of Mikaela Shiffrin and even Ingemar Stenmark?
The most plausible reason why the Gross, Hirscher and others are skiing the technique seen in the videos is that their ski boots are preventing them from Getting Over It.
“The relationship between equipment and technique is fragile at best. In the chicken and egg scenario, equipment enables sound technique. At the same time, equipment can disable a sound technique once it has been established. Further, the effect of equipment tends to become apparent in competition where races are won or lost by hundredths of a second. Here, seemingly minor changes can have major impacts on racer performance as reflected in results”. – TRENDS IN WORLD CUP EQUIPMENT AND SKI TECHNIQUE – 12-12-2014