“Equal Chances”: The Skiing World Cup has a balanced schedule | Sports News

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By ERIC WILLEMSEN, Associated Press

SÖLDEN, Austria (AP) – Alpine skiing begins its Olympic season this weekend with the first World Cup races in a 37-event program that seems more balanced than in previous years.

The men’s and women’s calendars include 18 sprint races and 18 technical events, plus a parallel competition.

This should make the playing field more level, after slaloms and giant slaloms outnumbered super-G and downhill races by far, thus favoring technical specialists over sprinters for the overall title of the World Cup.

“It can be interesting because now it’s the same in all disciplines. Whoever wants to fight for the overall, I think, has to ski well in both (technique and speed), ”said Petra Vlhova, who begins the defense of her first overall title in a giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier. Saturday.

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The men open with a GS on the same hill the next day. The World Cup season culminates with the finals in March in Courchevel and Méribel, the French resorts hosting the 2023 world championships, and is interrupted in February for the Beijing 2022 Olympics.

While French rider Alexis Pinturault is considered by many to be the favorite to successfully defend the men’s title, Mikaela Shiffrin is set to be one of the main contenders for the women’s title again after the American star announced his return to sprint racing. , having almost cut back on her schedule. exclusively in slalom and GS last year.

“A lot of the women are at a very high level of skiing, the competitions have been really tough and have even more depth than the last few years,” said Shiffrin, who is aiming for her fourth overall title.

“Everyone is raising the bar, which is just cool to be a part of. It might be a little more scary too, but we have to see where everyone stands. You never know until you jump into a race and see what everyone else is doing. “

Slalom and GS are Vlhova’s main events, but the defending champion from Slovakia took part in all 31 races on the women’s calendar last season to edge out former overall champion Lara Gut-Behrami, who typically collects most of the time. his points in the speed disciplines.

For 2021-22, the women’s calendar includes nine races for each of the four disciplines.

The situation is slightly different on the men’s side, with 10 slaloms and eight giant slaloms, and 11 downhills and seven super-G races.

“With equal opportunities for all, it will become even more exciting. There will definitely be more names in the mix for the overall standings, ”said Marco Schwarz, Austrian World Cup slalom champion who finished third in the men’s overall standings last year. “We still have to wait and see how it goes during the season. Sprint races are more vulnerable to weather conditions, so maybe not all of them can happen. “

Pinturault, who won his first big crystal globe last season beating Swiss skier Marco Odermatt, saw another hurdle.

“The situation is not 100% level between technological events and speed events,” said the Frenchman. “If you’re a super-G guy then you’re missing four races compared to the downhills. If you run downhill, super-G, and GS, then you’ve got one more run than slalom, GS, and super-G. It must be equal to 100% and the only possibility for this is to have nine races in each discipline.

Pinturault suggested that skiing could implement a rule that allows athletes to scratch a certain number of results, so that a few canceled races or poor finishes have no immediate impact on the overall standings. Biathlon, for example, has such a scratch result rule.

Following the election of Johan Eliasch as President of the International Ski Federation last spring, a working group was set up to develop plans for the future of alpine skiing.

Men’s overall titles have been won by technical specialists almost every year over the past decade, with Ivica Kostelic (2011), Marcel Hirscher (2012-19) and Pinturault finishing in the lead.

The only exception was the 2019-2020 season, which was cut short in March 2020 amid the coronavirus outbreak. Among the six canceled races, there were twice as many tech events, allowing speed specialists Aleksander Aamodt Kilde and Federica Brignone to win the championships.

Brignone was the first skier in the fastest disciplines to clinch the women’s title since Gut-Behrami in 2016. Shiffrin (2017-19) and Vlhova, who both started as slalom specialists, took top honors in the following years.

More AP Skiing: https://apnews.com/hub/skiing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Eric Willemsen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/eWilmedia

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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