One thing the overall and discipline titles do best is reveal those decisive moments that we often miss in real time. The obvious ones we remember like in 2008 when Swiss Didier Cuche needed a top 15 finish in the final super G to seal the discipline title. There he sat, in the finish after a timid run that landed him 15th, with only one skier remaining, his teammate. Would the Swiss coaches tell the young Daniel Albrecht to pull his punch for his country and compatriot? They did not, and he did not, and Cuche lost the title by a single point to Hannes Reichelt.
In 2008, Benjamin Raich, one of the best slalom skiers ever, needed only to finish 15th in the final slalom to win the overall. He hooked, and like just that, lost the title by three points.
In 2005, Bode Miller needed to win the final super G of the season to overtake Austrian Hermann Maier to become the first American male to win a speed title. His teammate, Daron Rahlves, was in the lead; Maier was back in eighth. Emblazoned on their Spyder suits that year was a term coined by Rahlves: “Hundies Matter.” Miller came down and tied Rahlves for the win and the title. Had he been one hundredth of a second slower, the U.S. men would have had to wait another two years for what would have been their first, and last, speed title to date.
It remains to be seen what Frenchman Alexi Pinturault does with his 31-point lead over Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt in the overall and 25-point deficit in the giant slalom title race. The 23-year-old Swiss does not ski the kind of slalom that would present a threat to the top 15 — the last position to score points in the World Cup final. Ultimately, he’ll have to close the 31-point gap by stealing the GS title from Pinturault tomorrow, then wait for a Benni-Raich slalom moment on Sunday. Should it not come, he will surely remember these moments:
The first of the two Kitzbuehel downhills was halted after bib 30. Odermatt was in the gate with bib 31 and never got a start. He went on to finish 10th in the second downhill, and he finished fifth in the second scheduled downhill in Saalbach, Austria. Weather snuffed out the first day. Then, there was the parallel at the beginning of the season. Pinturault won while Odermatt watched from home as he sat out his Covid quarantine. Like his compatriot, Lara Gut-Behrami, his moments were not over. The two speed races that offered their best chances to pull in front of the standing’s leaders were canceled, leaving titles in reach but out of their control.
For Pinturault, the 30-year-old Frenchman, a part of him must be hoping his moment was not last week when he skied out for the first — and only time — this season, at a time when he could have all but closed the door on the overall title. With that pressure largely alleviated, he would been free to ski the giant slalom like he has to, on the edge, to win the day and the GS title that has also eluded him in his career. Now, it’s different. His moment will be tomorrow, trying to clear his head of the obvious pressure that, at 23-years-old, Marco Odermatt isn’t likely to be slowing down next year to give him another shot like this one.