The start of the alpine ski season was overshadowed by the immensities of the Covid-19 pandemic. French skiers will have to adapt to changing circumstances… but they’re capable of everything!
A disrupted timetable
While ski resorts remain closed to the general public at Christmas, the ‘White Circus’ (as the skiing World Cup circuit is known) has begun its tour of the different venues. Like all other disciplines, skiing is, and will be, impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. It should be remembered that the end of last year’s season was cut short by the virus… and the 2020-2021 season will not escape unscathed. This year, for instance, the United States, particularly ravaged by the pandemic, will not be hosting any events. Asia, too, will not be staging any races given that the women's stop scheduled in Yanqing (China) – which was intended to be a dress rehearsal for the 2022 Winter Olympics – has been cancelled and replaced by a race in Val di Fassa (Italy).
Alexis Pinturault waiting for his chance
If the pandemic has modified the schedule of events, it will also leave a sword of Damocles dangling over the skiers' heads throughout the season. If they come down with the virus, they will miss races, which could prove disastrous for their performance especially when races follow one another in rapid succession, causing them to lose points in the overall ranking early next year.
We hope that Alexis Pinturault, who was penalized by events last year, will finally see official recognition of his immense talent with a Crystal Globe, a trophy he narrowly missed in the 2019-2020 season.
The organization of this unprecedented season could well favor his ambitions. In order to reduce the number of skiers from different disciplines traveling to, and gathering in, the same place, the International Federation has imposed weekends with several of the same events hosted in one resort. Alexis Pinturault, however, is a versatile skier who competes in both regular and giant slaloms. This means that he is used to competing in races in rapid succession, which is not necessarily the case for some of his more specialized opponents. He also demonstrated regularity in performance at the beginning of the season (coming 4th in Sölden, 1st in the parallel slalom event in Lech, and 5th in Santa Caterina), proving that he is well positioned in the competition. As far as his opponents are concerned, the early season has already revealed his principal rivals. There is, of course, the immense threat posed by Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, but also Henrik Kristoffersen, his archrival from last season in the slalom event. But in the overall ranking, another skier could pose an extremely serious challenge: the 23-year-old Swiss Marco Odermatt, who recently won the giant slalom in Santa Caterina, with Alexis Pinturault coming in 5th position.
Other members of the French Team are also capable of distinguishing themselves on the slopes, such as Victor Muffat-Jeandet. Just like Alexis Pinturault, this skier from the Bonneval-sur-Arc ski club will inevitably be somewhat penalized by the disappearance of the combined event in which he won a bronze medal at the PyeongChang Olympics, a season when he also won a medal in the giant slalom event... and he's perfectly capable of doing it again! In the slalom race, we’re looking forward to a fine performance from Clément Noël, who won last year in Zagreb (Croatia), Wengen (Switzerland), and... Chamonix on the celebrated Verte des Houches ski run: what a performance! Clément Noël will also be competing more on the giant slalom this season. The French technical staff can also count on competitors such as Mathieu Faivre, Thibaut Favrot and Cyprien Sarrazin.
All eyes on Tessa Worley
In the women’s team, everyone is looking forward to the return of Tessa Worley, two-times world champion in the giant slalom event, who underwent a knee operation last January and suffered from last year’s season coming to a sudden end. She is now fully recovered and raring to go! She took 9th place in the first race in Sölden and then suffered (like everyone else!) the domination of the Slovakian skier Petra Vlhová who won the last three races: the parallel slalom in Lech and the two giant slalom events in Levi. In addition to Tessa Worley, we are looking forward to the emergence of new talent, such as Romane Miradoli from the Haute Savoie region...
Expectations will be particularly high for the French skiers when they compete in events hosted in France in the Val d'Isère and Chamonix in December 2020 and January 2021 but, more particularly, during the world championships staged in Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy next February. But between now and then, so much can still happen...
Follow all the latest news from the French Ski Team on Esprit Glisse on the website of the Caisse d'Epargne, a partner of the French Ski Federation
Copyright : SIPA_Mathieu Faivre