The Cortina 2021 World Championships were framed by unmatched beauty and colored by some of the most spectacular performances I’ve seen in ages, both favorites and unannounced. But we will also remember the two weeks in which the rulebook was poured into and read by more people than in the history of sport. The men’s slalom of tomorrow will not stray from this theme.
It was announced at the team captains meeting tonight that rather than sticking to the reversal of the top 30 skiers from the second run, the norm, they will only reverse the top 15 due to the weather. hot weather forecast and the likelihood of serious course deterioration. The others will run after, in the order of their arrival in the first round. You will find, deep in the rulebook, that the jury has the right to this option, an option that has only been used once since the inverted format 30 was used, and that was ago. 20 years or so.
We saw how the track reacts this afternoon, it’s under control, explained men’s race director Markus Waldner before announcing that they would reverse in the top 15. We have to respect the best stars.
Almost immediately, the American men’s technical coach, Forest Carey, stepped in. It seems like an extreme measure to me.
Walnders’ response was swift and decisive. You weren’t on the hill today, he said. And I just told you that this is an option the jury can do and we decided to do it. End of the conversation. Carey and American technical coach Ryan Wilson were apoplectic. Their skiers Ben Ritchie, Jett Seymour, Luke Winters and Alex Leever all fought from high numbers to make the top 30, but reaching the top 15 in warm conditions was another dagger in their chances of a good result.
Alex Leever (United States).
I haven’t been a coach for so long, said Ryan Wilson, 33, who is in his second year coaching the US slalom team, but I have seen many races at the FIS level, NorAms, European Cup and World Cup. where I did not see anyone having the balls to return the top 15 to protect “our superstars”. It’s bullshit. I don’t understand the thought process. I have never seen him at any level of racing.
Unless there is a protest or a change of mind from the jury and they have that right, we will all see it tomorrow.
Only, here’s the catch …
This decision, rather than protecting the stars, could very well be their downfall. There is already a slew of evidence this season to suggest that reversing the top 15 may actually help ranked runners to the top of the podium. Switzerland’s Sandro Simonet went from 30th to third place in Chamonix the day after his teammate, Luca Aerni, moved from 26th to fourth. It was hot and the snow was springtime, requiring salt to harden it. Same thing with Madonna, even in Zagreb. In all of these cases, most of the rapid deterioration of the course occurs in the first five skiers or so, and then the failure tends to stabilize and become more gradual.
The men’s peloton is so rich in talent that if you give the finisher 15, start number 1 in the second round, the chances of him winning increase. On average, finisher 15 will be around 1.5 seconds behind the fastest finisher, instead of 2.5 if he was 30th. By the time the leader of the first round comes down, after all the serious deterioration has occurred, he will be struggling to maintain his advantage. Also, the second races tend to break down faster as the temperatures are on the rise, so it’s not something that necessarily balances out at the end.
It sounds like a dead end decision, but for their sake I hope I’m wrong.
Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR).
If I am, I think this course and these conditions bear Henrik Kristoffersen’s name everywhere. A steep, rough and spring slalom that the Norwegians dream of. He showed it to Madonna last December, dropping from 12th to victory in the eroded second round. It was a race for the ages, but it still wasn’t faster than Sweden’s Kristoff Jacobsen, who twice won the second round with an early number in the second round, you get my drift.
Marco Schwarz was good in all conditions and leads the slalom standings because of it. And Ramon Zenhausern is like a D9 dozer when the going gets hot and tough. Watch his 2019 Kranjska Gora slalom, Slovenia if you need a refresher.
But, if I’m a bettor, I keep my money until the first round and see who’s ranked between 10 and 15 and go from there.
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