Welcome to this special edition of Gravity, dedicated to the upcoming alpine skiing world championships. This highly anticipated event starts on Tuesday and will run through until 15th February in the resorts of Vail and Beaver Creek in Colorado. We’ll be looking at the skiers who, we think, will be taking most of the medals.
In the absence of the injured Aksel Lund Svindal, all eyes will be on America’s Ted Ligety with the 30-year-old recently announcing that his main objective this year would be to secure the crystal globe which goes to the World Cup overall champion.
Ted Ligety will be wary of Austria’s Marcel Hirscher who has been the world’s best overall skier three years running. No man has ever won four straight World Cup overall titles. Only one woman has achieved this feat, compatriot Annemarie Moser-Proell in the 70s.
Kjetil Jansrud will also be one to watch after fully recovering from a knee injury which forced him to withdraw from the the 2013 World Championships.
The in-form Norwegian is unquestionably the man to beat in the downhill at Beaver Creek after winning in that discipline three times this season, most recently in Kitzbuehel on February 24.
Kjetil Jansrud will be the no. 1 favourite of the super-G which is planned for Wednesday and the downhill three days later on the Birds of Prey in Beaver Creek. Our expert, Franck Piccard, a former Olympic champion, can tell us about this slope.
Franck Piccard: ‘‘There’s a special technique on a long high speed slope for downhill or super-G. It’s always tricky. You can never let your guard down. There are very few markers, you have to react in a fraction of a second and it’s really hard to anticipate. And then you come in on a long plateaux generally with large bumps at the end so there is very little visibility. You have to find a marker and keep a sense of direction in the perfect space otherwise you lose the ideal trajectory. And then there’s another difficulty – it’s a slope which is really well prepared so the surface is very hard and therefore very tiring. It’s in the Colorado Mountains at an altitude of 3000 metres, so after about one and a half minutes the fog comes down and it’s often very hard to complete the course with a clear mind.’‘
At the summit
The men are meeting on the Birds of Prey, but the best female skiers in the world will be battling it out on the Raptor. We are going to introduce you to some of the biggest names on the circuit starting with Lindsey Vonn.
The U.S. could be captivated by the exploits of Snow Queen Vonn, the most successful women’s ski racer of all-time after notching her 64th career World Cup victory.
The 30-year-old will be the undisputed headliner in Vail but she knows she will have to be on top of her game to beat the likes of Olympic slalom gold medallist Mikaela Shiffrin, Slovenia’s Tina Maze and Anna Fenninger.
The Austrian is currently lying in second place in the overall World Cup standings with Maze, the 2013 Super G world champion, still holding a comfortable lead coming into Vail.
The women’s super-G, the first race of the World championships, kicks off on Feb. 3
“It’s the 8th August 1966 and Marielle Goitschel doesn’t know it yet, but she is going to have to wait 30 years before getting the gold medal for the downhill event in the world championships. The French skier won the giant and combination events on the slopes of Portillo in Chile and came second in the slalom behind her compatriot Annie Famose. In the downhill she is only beaten by Erika Schinegger. However, after medical investigations Schinegger is found to be a man. Having undergone a sex change operation, Erik Schinegger, as he is known today, has told his story in a book entitled “The man who was the female champion of the world”.
We’ll be back next Sunday for another edition of Gravity. But in the meantime, congratulations to Sweden’s Lotten Rapp, who has won the second stage of the Freeride World Tour in Fieberbrunn, Austria. It’s Snowtime!