The wait is over. The conditions are set. The world’s very best Alpine skiers are ready.
And on 22 and 23 October the Audi FIS Alpine World Cup season 2022-23 will start in style in Sölden (AUT) with women’s and men’s giant slalom.
Public primed to get the party started
After two tough years adhering to strict Covid-19 restrictions, spectators are once again expected to flood to the traditional World Cup-opener on the slopes of Austria’s famous Rettenbach Glacier.
The prospect of packed stands and cheering fans has only added to the levels of anticipation ahead of what looks certain to be another thrilling season.
Specialists face Shiffrin while chasing pack look strong
There is perhaps no better race to kick-off with than the women’s giant slalom. Just seven months ago the evergreen Tessa Worley (FRA) pipped Sweden’s reigning Olympic champion Sara Hector at the post to grab the Crystal Globe. The pair went head-to-head all season with the Frenchwoman eventually emerging victorious by a margin of just 27 points after finishing inside the top eight in all nine of her World Cup races.
But the two specialists are far from the only contenders for glory with the most familiar of all names top of the list of likely challengers. Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) not only won her fourth Overall World Cup title last season, she is also the defending giant slalom champion in Sölden.
The skier, who currently has 74 World Cup wins to her name, finished just ahead of perennial rivals Lara Gut-Behrami (SUI) and Petra Vlhova (SVK) 12 months ago to claim her 14th career World Cup giant slalom victory and her second on the Rettenbach. With Gut-Behrami and Vlhova the respective 2021 and 2019 giant slalom world champions a repeat podium is a distinct possibility.
Italian pair Marta Bassino, the 2021-22 giant slalom Crystal Globe winner, and Federica Brignone will be among those out to disrupt proceedings while Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin will again be a threat after an impressive six top-10 giant slalom World Cup finishes in 2021-22.
Odermatt irresistible but Pinturault waiting to pounce
On the men’s side all eyes will be on Marco Odermatt (SUI) as he steps up to the start gate. The Swiss ace proved untouchable in giant slalom last season, winning both the World Cup and Beijing 2022 Olympic Games titles.
Dig a little deeper and it only gets more worrying for his rivals. Out of the eight 2021-22 World Cup giant slalom races, the 25 year old won five and finished on the podium in the other three. Such irresistible form started in Sölden and it is hard to look past the prodigy once again.
Not that such thoughts will be in the mind of Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR). The 28-year-old leads the charge for The Attacking Vikings. Second to Odermatt in the overall standings in 2021-22, Kristoffersen has seven World Cup giant slalom wins to his name so far. Although he has yet to triumph in the season-opening event.
No such issues for compatriot Lucas Braathen. He claimed his maiden World Cup crown on the Austrian slopes back in 2020 and followed it up with two podium places last season. The 21-year-old Alexander Steen Olsen rounds off the Norwegian challenge. In March he claimed both the giant slalom and slalom Junior World Ski Championship gold medals and is undoubtedly a name to watch.
It has been eight long years since the Austrian crowd have been able to cheer a home champion but Manuel Feller (AUT) is well-placed to end that painful wait. Third in the overall standings last year following three podium places and a further three top-10 finishes, there could be nowhere better for the 30-year-old to claim his first ever giant slalom World Cup win.
Finally, Alexis Pinturault (FRA) may not be an Austrian native but the Frenchman can certainly claim to have a long-standing love affair with the Sölden slopes. In eight races on the Rettenbach glacier the 31 year old has a remarkable record of two triumphs, three podium places and a further three top-five finishes. With the Courchevel-Meribel 2023 FIS Alpine Ski World Championships looming large on the horizon Pinturault has it all to aim for.
After seven months of waiting, do not look away. The World Cup is back.
Beat the rest and predict the winners
Do you know better than anyone who is ready to step up to the top of the podium? Have you got the insight on all the world’s very best skiers? If so, we want your predictions!
The FIS Predictor Challenge has been updated and is live right now. So, head over and let us know which skiers are going to triumph in Sölden this weekend and across the winter!
Register for free at: https://predictorchallenge.fis-ski.com/