Shiffrin and Odermatt favorites to defend titles at start of ski season

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Sölden (Austria) (AFP) – Reigning World Cup champions Mikaela Shiffrin and Marco Odermatt start the 2022-23 season as favorites as alpine skiing once again battles tough environmental issues.

After three consecutive titles between 2017 and 2019, Shiffrin bounced back to win the ‘big globe’ last season thanks to a resurgence in form after a massively disappointing Winter Olympics in Beijing in February where she did not win a medal. , skiing exceptionally over three races.

The 27-year-old American, however, already has 74 World Cup wins to her name across all disciplines and is fast approaching compatriot Lindsey Vonn’s women’s record of 82 wins and the legendary King’s overall record of 86. Swedish slalom Ingemar Stenmark.

Slovak Petra Vlhova, the 2021 overall champion who failed to achieve top-10 finishes in the downhill speed and super-G events last season, will blow on Shiffrin’s neck, at least in technical slalom and giant slalom events.

After a year under new coach Mauro Pini, Olympic slalom champion Vlhova has it all in her bid to dethrone Shiffrin, with her eye also on the world championships from February 6-19 in the French resorts of Courchevel and Meribel.

A third runner who will still be in contention, despite subsequent crashes and injuries, is Italian Sofia Goggia, a queen of downhill and super-G.

Among the male runners, Odermatt is the clear favorite after a season that saw him not only claim Olympic gold in giant slalom but also the overall World Cup title thanks to seven race victories from 16 podium finishes.

The 25-year-old all-rounder will surely be looking to fill the big ski boots left behind by now-retired Austrian Marcel Hirscher, winner of eight consecutive overall titles.

Title contenders will surely include Norway’s Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, Shiffrin’s boyfriend and 2020 overall winner.

Kilde clinched globes for the downhill and super-G disciplines last season with seven World Cup victories in a surprising comeback after rupturing knee ligaments.

Kilde’s teammate Henrik Kristoffersen has returned to form after the Beijing Olympics with four wins and his aim will be to maximize glory in slalom, a discipline Odermatt does not compete in, and be a thorn in the side. foot of the Swiss runner.

Too hot to make snow

The season kicks off, as usual, at the Rettenbach glacier in the Austrian resort of Sölden on Saturday amid more concerns about global warming.

These concerns have been heightened by the recent announcement that Saudi Arabia will host the Asian Winter Games in 2029.

“Absurd”, according to French slalom skier Clément Noël. “Insane,” added teammate Alexis Pinturault, citing the desert kingdom’s lack of affinity with winter sports.

Global warming is being noticed firsthand by runners, who use the glaciers to hone their off-season skills.

After another particularly hot Nordic summer, Swiss glaciers have lost another six percent of their volume.

As Europe enjoys an Indian summer, organizers in Sölden had no problem getting the artificial snow to stick, but that’s another matter for Zermatt/Cervinia, which will host two runs at the end of October for the men and early November for women. .

The International Ski Federation (FIS), faced with a complete lack of slowness at the bottom of the piste, has pushed back its traditional “snow control” to allow colder temperatures to set in to allow the artificial snow created by the guns to settle. .

Italian Sofia Goggia will be a candidate despite her tendency to fall NICOLAS TUCAT AFP/File

Global warming is also rearing its ugly head in the form of travel involved in the competition this season, with two separate trips to North America, sometimes for just one race.

FIS officials say they don’t have full control over the calendar, citing a tussle over lucrative TV rights that would go against the wishes of major ski nations like Austria and Italy. Swiss.

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