At the dawn of its 4 years, skiing returns to the forefront before the Olympic Games

BEAVER CREEK, Col. – Almost everywhere outside the Alps, ski racing tends to go unnoticed most of the time. And then, every four years...


BEAVER CREEK, Col. – Almost everywhere outside the Alps, ski racing tends to go unnoticed most of the time.

And then, every four years, the Olympics draw near and with the flick of a switch, ski racers once again capture the imagination of anyone who spots the high-speed daredevil that unfolds across the ‘Europe and North America in the winter getaway known as the “white circus”. During an Olympic season, the prospect of the Games and the glory and riches they can offer tend to hover over every bend and snowfall. Each result becomes a clue of who’s in shape and who still has work to do and what could happen in early February when the world’s eyes set on this rarefied sport.

The male half of this roadshow landed in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado this weekend for the racing series known as the Birds of Prey, featuring the usual collection of speed dogs that many sports scientists count on. the best winter sports athletes. They’re ready to pounce on nearly two miles of ice at over 80 miles an hour on a few sticks of fiberglass composite. In the first three days of racing, they did nothing to dispel this idea, with Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde winning two of the first three races to reaffirm his claim as the best of the best, even though he tore a knee ligament less than a year. since.

A final descent is scheduled for Sunday afternoon.

Despite her prowess, Kilde, the 2019-2020 overall champion, is best known in these regions as the boyfriend of Mikaela Shiffrin, arguably the best skier in the world who has a chance to add an armful of medals to the Olympics. from Beijing. She’s a beloved local who lives in a town closer to Vail, just a few ridges. Although Shiffrin struggled in her downhill race at Lake Louise this weekend, she won her 71st World Cup race and 46th slalom, in Vermont last weekend, and is one of the biggest stars in sports.

“She’s awesome,” Kilde said of his girlfriend on Saturday, after shredding the descent to win by two-thirds of a second over Austrian Matthias Mayer and reading a congratulatory message from Shiffrin. “We’re good for each other.”

Are you looking for clues before Beijing? Kilde and Shiffrin look set to be the golden couple of the Games. NBC, the Olympic broadcaster in the United States, loves its golden couples.

That these races take place this weekend is something of a miracle. Despite some scattered snowfall last month, the weather has been balmy in the Colorado mountains of late, with chilly nights and mornings giving way to bright 50-degree afternoons. With the exception of a few trails, the mountains are mostly drab shades of green and brown.

Techs spent weeks blowing artificial snow across the course in a fierce battle to build a proper base and gain approval from International Ski Federation inspectors to move forward. It was touch and go until the last days, and hundreds of workers with pickaxes and shovels worked long days to keep the snow strip tighter than usual for the race.

“Not as much terrain as we’re used to,” said Ryan Cochrane-Siegle, America’s top speed skier, who finished sixth in Saturday’s downhill, an encouraging result for someone whose previous season s ‘ended with a sudden fall and a broken neck.

While the Beijing Games are the short term elephant on the ski slopes, climate change is the long term one. Ski races cannot be done without cold temperatures and snow. Shorter winters increasingly squeeze the start and end of the World Cup season and make summer training on high-altitude glaciers even more precarious.

Playing against the weather has become a key strategy this week, with top riders vying for an early start in the program before the course begins to crumble due to a combination of sun, hot temperatures and ski edges. .

Alpine skiing at the 2022 Olympics will take place in Yanqing District, where it is expected to be very cold but little snowfall and all the flake ski racers crossing will be artificial. Skiers actually prefer it this way, as artificial snow provides the kind of hard, densely packed and cohesive surface they love and feel most secure on.

They are less enthusiastic about going to a mountain where they have never competed in a host country with an increasingly authoritarian government. There have been calls to boycott the Games and complaints against the International Olympic Committee for joining the Chinese government, most recently amid Beijing’s reaction to allegations of sexual assault leveled against a top Communist Party leader by the tennis star Peng Shuai.

“It’s a big deal, and I’m not afraid to say it,” said Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, the 36-year-old veteran and five-time Olympic medalist, after his 14th place finish on Thursday. “As athletes we are stuck in the middle.”

A day later Jansrud had another problem to deal with when he crashed violently at the exit of one of the big bends in the course. Jansrud fell out of bounds at nearly 60 mph, his skis helicopter-like sinking into the net on one side of the slope.

The American men, who have been bitten by injuries in recent seasons, have skied cleanly until they try to get back to the level now retired stars like Bode Miller and Ted Ligety set in the World Cup tour over the past 15 years. .

Travis Ganong, a 33-year-old Californian who tore a major ligament in his knee a few years ago, recorded the most encouraging result, finishing third in Friday’s Super-G race.

“We needed it,” said Steve Nyman, 39, the team’s oldest statesman, who is returning from his own spate of injuries. “You see a guy up there on the podium, it turns us all on fire. “

The Swiss and Austrians, who usually dominate the sport, often don’t need a lot of energy but they’ve had their fair share in recent days. Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt, a fast-growing 24-year-old, won the Super-G on Thursday, finished second on Friday, and looks likely to carry on his country’s alpine traditions.

And if it’s an Olympic year, it’s a safe bet that Meyer, one of the circuit’s smallest skiers, will regain his unique form, skiing in his trademark position like an upside-down U. Meyer was the Olympic downhill. 2014 champion and 2018 Super-G champion. Meyer finished second in Thursday’s super-G and sat in the leader’s seat for a good half hour on Saturday before Kilde knocked him out.

“I brought my confidence from yesterday,” Kilde said after her second straight win. “A great feeling. “

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Newsrust - US Top News: At the dawn of its 4 years, skiing returns to the forefront before the Olympic Games
At the dawn of its 4 years, skiing returns to the forefront before the Olympic Games
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