The French ski team almost showed up at its Worlds at home, in Courchevel-Méribel (from February 6 to 19), with a zero point. The Blues only escape the white copy thanks to the inspiration of Clément Noël, unhappy in Chamonix on Saturday February 4 but victorious in the slalom in Schladming (Austria), ten days earlier. Many have come close: Alexis Pinturault, 3e at the Beaver Creek super-G; the stainless Johan Clarey, 2e during the descents of Val Gardena and Kitzbühel, its Austrian garden; Clément Noël, already him, 3e in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen slalom; and Romane Miradoli, 3e during the super-G of Saint-Moritz.
On the Savoyard tracks of Courchevel and Méribel, the Tricolores will however have difficulty in equaling the harvest of Cortina d’Ampezzo, two years ago, from where they left with 5 medals, including the two surprise titles of Mathieu Faivre ( giant and parallel slalom). This year, the goal is to do as well as the three medals of the Beijing 2022 Olympic Games, says Fabien Saguez. The president of the French Ski Federation recognizes “a difficult start to the season” but wants to believe “soul supplement” who will animate the Blues at home during the fortnight.
In girls, the “generation gap” observed for several years does not seem to be reduced, especially in slalom, which is still looking for an heiress in Perrine Pelen, world champion in 1985 and today general manager of the organizing committee of the Worlds. If Romane Miradoli seems to have returned to the fore in Super-G after her serious knee injury in December 2020, which had kept her away from the slopes for a year, the hopes of Les Bleues will once again rest largely on the shoulders of Dean Tessa Worley, still looking for her first podium this season.
The double giant slalom world champion (2013 and 2017) is one of those experienced athletes capable of sublimating themselves in “one-day races”. The Grand-Bornand skier can, as a giant, steal the show from Mikaela Shiffrin, insatiable this season and who is announced on the podium at each of the races that the 27-year-old American will compete in.
“‘Pintu’, don’t bury him”
On the men’s side, the French team was not spared by injuries (Matthieu Bailet, Thibaut Favrot and Victor Muffat-Jeandet). If the Blues pale in comparison to the Norwegian (Kilde, Kristoffersen, Braathen, etc.) and Swiss (Odermatt, Meillard, Yule) armadas, which shared the victory in 24 of the 28 World Cup events contested this winter, Pinturault et al have a few cards to play.
The child from Courchevel, far from his status as world number one in 2021, can nurture some hopes in combined (addition of a super-G and a slalom), from Tuesday February 7, provided that doubts are dispelled between the stakes tight. He will have a second chance to stand on the podium, two days later, in super-G, a discipline in which he regularly finishes in the Top 5 this season. “‘Pintu’, don’t bury him, he is far from being on the street”defends the descender Luc Alphand, winner of the general classification of the World Cup in 1997. “In the ‘face’, it’s a warriorhe can unlock the counter for the France team”, adds the consultant for France Televisions.
Johan Clarey could then imitate him. Olympic downhill vice-champion in Beijing, the 42-year-old Tignard has the science of sliding and the mind to win. With a gold medal, the Poulidor of French skiing (silver at the 2019 Worlds) would conclude in apotheosis a career during which he will have broken many records for the “oldest skier to…”. Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, the Norwegian tightrope walker, does not hear it that way, he who once again in Kitzbühel, in January, prevented Clarey from winning his first victory on the circuit.
Among the technicians, the Blues hold with Clément Noël a Mozart of the slalom. Problem, the Vosges Olympic champion, with a revolutionary and widely copied style, is capable of the best as well as the worst. When he finishes a round, he is generally well placed or even first. Problem, he leaves the track half the time since the beginning of the season, as in Chamonix on February 4 (2e sleeve). But for Jean-Pierre Vidal, Olympic slalom champion in 2002, the L’Eclipse run in Courchevel, facing north and therefore covered in very hard snow, is “a slope that corresponds to Clément Noël’s skiing”. “It’s clearly the best chance of a medal for the Blues”advances the consultant for Eurosport, who warns of the additional pressure that constitutes the Worlds “at home”.
During this fortnight, Laura Gauché and Cyprien Sarrazin could create a surprise in the speed events (super-G and downhill). This would bring a breath of fresh air to championships which should not have much in store, as Marco Odermatt, the 25-year-old Swiss prodigy, and Mikaela Shiffrin, world number one continuously since the fall of 2021, are promised coronations.
The 2023 World Ski Championships program
The women’s events and the parallel events are scheduled on the Roc de Fer track in Méribel, the men’s events on the Eclipse track in Courchevel.
Monday, February 6
Women’s alpine combined, sprint at 11 a.m., slalom at 2:30 p.m.
Tuesday, February 7
Men’s alpine combined, sprint at 11 a.m., slalom at 2:30 p.m.
Wednesday February 8
Women’s Super G, 11:30 a.m.
Thursday February 9
Men’s Super G, 11:30 a.m.
Saturday February 11
Women’s downhill, 11 a.m.
Sunday February 12
Men’s downhill, 11 a.m.
Tuesday February 14
Mixed team parallel slalom, 12:15 p.m.
Wednesday February 15
Women’s and men’s parallel slaloms, noon
Thursday February 16
Women’s giant slalom, first run at 10 a.m., second at 1:30 p.m.
Friday February 17
Men’s giant slalom, first run at 10 a.m., second at 1:30 p.m.
Saturday February 18
Women’s slalom, first run at 10 a.m., second at 1:30 p.m.
Sunday February 19
Men’s slalom, first run at 10 a.m., second at 1:30 p.m.
Source: Le Monde