Ranking the U.S. alpine skiers who have won multiple Olympic medals
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- When Ted Ligety won the gold medal in Wednesday afternoon’s giant slalom, he instantly climbed higher on any mythical ranking of all-time U.S. alpine Olympians. Ligety was the first U.S. male to win a giant slalom gold medal, and he also became the first American male racer to win two career Olympics golds (he won gold in the combined in 2006).
A total of five U.S. men and eight U.S. women have won multiple alpine ski racing medals, and ranking them is a fool’s errand complicated by the vast differences between eras and the cruel unpredictability of an outdoor sport contested on snow. (Plus, the fact that some people will rank a single gold medal, like Bill Johnson’s downhill gold in 1984, higher than multiple non-golds.) Nevertheless, somebody has to try it.
Here are separate rankings of U.S. ski racers who have won multiple Olympic medals (followed by a bonus notation of their overall career ranking among other Olympic medalists, which, in several cases, varies from their Olympic ranking). Hence, you won’t see winners of single medals like Johnson, Billy Kidd (a watershed slalom sliver in ’64) or Debbie Armstrong (giant slalom gold in ’84), or accomplished non-medalists like Buddy Werner, Daron Rahlves or Tamara McKinney. Feel free to deconstruct, reconstruct or simply destruct.
1. Bode Miller (1997-Present)
- Resume: Five Olympic medals in three Olympics (one gold, three silver, two bronze), three more than any other U.S. male racer. One of only two men (Kjetil-Andre Aamodt of Norway is the other) to win Olympic medals in four events. 33 World Cup wins, more than any other U.S. male. Two World Cup overall championships. One of four racers to win World Cup races in all five disciplines.
- Intangibles: He's pushed the line like few racers in history, and might have won more if he didn’t -- he partied away at least a couple of medals at the 2006 Olympics.
- Overall Rank: 1
2. Ted Ligety (2004-present)
- Resume: Two Olympic medals, both gold. Only U.S. racer in history with two gold medals, only U.S. racer to win Olympic giant slalom gold (2014). 21 World Cup giant slalom wins, five World Cup season giant slalom titles. Won three titles at 2013 World Championships.
- Intangibles: He has revolutionized giant slalom skiing in the era of daunting equipment rules. At 29, he’s not nearly finished. He founded a helmet and goggle company (Shred Optics) that has sponsorship arrangements with more than 40 Olympians.
- Overall rank: 3
3. Tommy Moe (1990-’98)
- Resume: First U.S. male racer to win two medals at the same Olympics, with downhill (gold) and Super-G (silver) in 1994. Won only one World Cup race.
- Intangibles: Once a dominant junior racer, Moe fulfilled promise and won his Olympic gold medal in Lillehammer before ever having won a World Cup race.
- Overall rank: 4
4. Phil Mahre (1976-’84)
- Resume: Two Olympic medals, one gold, one silver, in two games. 27 World Cup wins, second behind Miller; 3 World Cup overall titles, most of any U.S. male racer.
- Intangibles: He won his three overall titles without winning a single speed race, similar to all-time leader Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden (86 wins) and Alberto Tomba of Italy (50 wins).
- Overall rank: 2
5. Andrew Weibrecht (2006-present)
- Resume: Two shocking Olympic medals in Super-G, bronze in 2006 and silver in 2014. Has never finished higher than 10th in a World Cup race.
- Intangibles: Nicknamed the “War Horse,” Weibrecht fell so low on U.S. team barometer that he had to pay at least $14,000 toward his training expenses for current season.
- Overall rank: 5
Most impressive single medals: Bill Johnson’s epic 1984 downhill, after a Namath-esque prediction; and the silver-bronze by Billy Kidd and Jimmy Huega in the 1964 slalom, the first alpine medals by U.S. men.
1. Andrea Mead Lawrence (1948-’56)
- Resume: The only U.S. woman to win two individual gold medals, won both the slalom and giant slalom in 1952. She made the U.S. national team at age 14 and her first Olympic team at 15.
- Intangibles: It’s impossible to measure performances from the distant pre-World Cup era against modern racers, but two gold medals is two gold medals. Period. Spot is hers until somebody matches it.
- Overall rank: 4
2. Julia Mancuso (2001-present)
- Resume: She's won four Olympic medals, including a shocking bronze in the Sochi combined, which is twice as many as any other U.S. woman. Mancuso won the 2006 giant slalom in a Sestriere snowstorm, and added downhill and combined silvers in 2010. Also has seven World Cup victories and four times has finished in the top five of the World Cup overall standings.
- Intangibles: Every one of Mancuso’s medals has been a surprise.
- Overall rank: 3
3. Lindsey Vonn: (2000-present)
- Resume: Won the 2010 downhill under a heavy favorite’s pressure and despite a shin bruise than nearly forced her to withdraw from the race. Added a bronze in the Super-G. Vonn is by far the most accomplished World Cup racer of any U.S. racer of either gender, with 59 race victories and four overall titles.
- Intangibles: Two of Vonn’s wheelhouse Olympics have been undermined by injury: First a downhill training crash in 2006 and then a blown-out knee in 2013. If she had stayed healthy, she would likely have at least two more medals.
- Overall rank: 1
4. Gretchen Fraser (1940-’48)
- Resume: Won slalom gold and combined silver at age 29 in 1948, which makes her one of only three U.S. women to win gold and a second medal at the same Olympics (Mead Lawrence and Vonn are the others).
- Intangibles: Like Vonn, but for very different reasons, Fraser might have won more medals; both the 1940 and ’44 Games were cancelled due to World War II.
- Overall rank: 5
5 (tie). Picabo Street (1992-2002)
- Resume: Silver medal in the downhill in 1994 and gold four years later in Super-G. Street also won nine World Cup downhill races, all in 1995 and ’96; only Vonn has won more downhills among U.S. women.
- Intangibles: Street won the ’98 Nagano Super-G by a miniscule .01 seconds over Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria. The gold came past Street’s prime and in her second-best race.
- Overall rank: 2
5 (tie). Diann Roffe (1984-’94)
- Resume: Won silver medal in giant slalom at ’92 Games in France and came back two years later (as the Olympic cycle shifted from holding Winter and Summer Games in the same years) to win the Super-G in Lillehammer. Also won two World Cup races, including a giant slalom race in Lake Placid at age 17.
- Intangibles: Roffe went for broke in ’94, ripping to the gold medal as the first racer down the hill.
- Overall rank: 6
7. Penny Pitou (1956-’60)
- Resume: Her silver medal in the 1960 downhill in Squaw Valley, California was the first Olympic downhill medal by any U.S. skier. Pitou, 21 at the time, added a silver in giant slalom.
- Intangibles: It was 16 more years before another U.S. racer medaled in downhill (Cindy Nelson’s bronze in 1976).
- Overall rank: 7
8. Jean Saubert (1962-’66)
- Resume: Won two medals the 1964 Games in Innsbruck, silver in giant slalom and bronze in slalom.
- Intangibles: Saubert’s two medals were one-third of the total of six medals won by the entire U.S. Olympic team in ’64.
- Overall rank: 8
Most impressive single medal: Debbie Armstrong’s gold in the 1984 giant slalom.