Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mikaela Shiffrin is skiing great, but not yet ideal!

Mikaela is a great athlete. Maybe the best athlete we have seen in skiing. I know this because she can ski amazingly well even without an ideal boot set-up. Last season she had new Atomic boots. They didn't work. Mikaela didn't finish in the top 5 in slalom at the beginning of the season. She trained on those boots all fall, yet the US ski team coaches and Atomic boot reps didn't see the problem. I made some contacts and had them put her back on her old boots. She won the next slalom by a net difference of 3 seconds from the slalom before, and it was totally due to her boot change. Was I surprised? Of course not. I could see her struggling a mile away (actually I was 3000 miles away).

Now in 2015, the boot set up is better, far better, but not ideal. Many will say 'Harb is crazy, gone wacky, she just won a slalom by 3 seconds.' You know what? I don't care, because I know if she is set up correctly, she can win by 3.5 or even 4 seconds. Is it necessary? Of course it is! If she is set up right, she won't have to work as hard, and she will be in better balance and more relaxed. Scary thought for her competitors.

Will the changes she could use to her benefit happen? Of course not. The US Ski Team is close-minded and the ski boot reps know even less. They can't recognize a bow-legged set up from a knock-kneed skier. Just look at the rest of the world cup women's slalom field: their boot set ups are horrendous. After this article, I will put up examples.

Here is what Mikaela is dealing with:  The first photo clip, *(below)* the right ski is almost flat, but look at her leg: The boot is flat on the ski, but her leg is curved in. It's at a bad angle. Her knees are almost touching. Most would immediately say, "she is canted wrong," or "canted knock-kneed." Wrong. She is fighting her cuff. The cuff is too strong against her leg. We do thousands of alignments, and have found the Atomic boot to be notorious for this. Many coaches have told me they will not put their skiers on Atomic boots because they can't figure out how to get their athletes skiing well in them.

If the Cuff is fixed and put correctly on Mikaela's right boot, her left turn will be much improved. Scary thought. Will they do it? Of course not. No one wants to take the risk of screwing her up, that's why they don't do anything. They don't know. And to them, it's better to do nothing than take the risk of making it worse. After all, she is winning by 2 plus seconds.--

Here in the clip (below) the results of the cuff is too strong on her leg. She has to push the top of the boot away to get the ski angles she wants, to make the ski hold and carve. That is why it looks knocked kneed, but she isn't.

This photo below shows how much she has to do to make this work.  The right ski will always be late to the party. By that I mean,  it will take longer to get to the correct angle. Why, because it has to come back from being so far inside, from the previous turn.  Look at the previous photo, look at how far her knee is behind the other leg.

*(below clip)*Another example of her pushing the boot to the inside, she is fighting the cuff. The knee and lower leg has to push it over and therefore at the end of the arc, has to travel too far, to get the ski finally at the angle she needs to hold. Lots of wasted effort and movements. Sometimes it causes her to make adaptive recoveries.

What saves Mikaela while others would not even place with this set up, is her amazing balance and preparation. Her inside ski and foot management is amazing to watch. If you know what movements she is using to do what she is doing, it makes watching her, an even greater thing of beauty. It would be like watching Mario Andretti win at The Indy 500, with really bald tires, his driving talent overcomes the poor equipment. However, there is no reason to make Mikaela fight this much to win, even if it is by 3 seconds.

My next article will be a comparison between Mikaela and her competitors, and what she is doing and what they are not.


Unknown said...

I would like to know what "cuff setup" and "too strong cuff setup" mean.
Is it forward lean or sideways boot cuff angle(commonly called "canting" and adjusted at ankle boot screws) ?
Or is it something else?

Unknown said...

Please explain what needs to be done to the cuff ??

Unknown said...

Please - What needs to be done to the cuff?
Thank you

Crawford Pierce said...

Great insights Harald! It hurts to see her in those angles. Shortens your career .
Look forward to the next article.

Harald Harb said...

Shiffrin's cuff set up is too strong against the leg, it forces the leg into an awkward angle. Remember the issues she had at the beginning of last season, very similar. It's obvious by the photos I posted. If the cuff angle is reduced, it would help greatly. Many of the Atomic skiers are also suffering from this situation. Even Hirscher, after his first run in slalom at Val d'Isere, he make a big change and in his alignment, he was much better in the second run. If you watch carefully you can see the difference. What is amazing is that those working with these skiers don't recognize when they are fighting the ski boots.