It’s exceedingly rare that a world championship speed event takes place on entirely unfamiliar territory. But that will be precisely the scenario the men will face tomorrow in the super G called, appropriately, Vertigo. There is one exception. The Italian nationals took place there in the spring of 2019. It just wasn’t pummeled by feet of snow along with a few helpings of rain on the lower third like the 2021 edition has been.
It’s worth noting that this will be the case with the 2022 Olympic events in Beijing as all nations will be seeing the venue for the first time upon touchdown. In both cases, coronavirus has thwarted the otherwise-obligatory test events. Both put a very high premium on the ability to adapt and improvise.
In the case of Italian speed star Dom Paris, it will also ask for a bit of re-calibration. When it’s nasty, fast, bumpy and icy, Paris, at his best, is unstoppable. Lower the intensity, soften the surface, and you pull the cape right off his shoulders. Paris was not impressed with the relative challenge of Vertigo in 2019, but has since toned down his comments noting the course is somewhat short and perfection will be of the highest order. Throw in potentially soft conditions and Italy’s favorite might be facing a psychological headwind at least.
Switzerland’s Mauro Caviezel has, at the very last moment, decided to enter the race. Last year’s super G season title winner was also leading this year before suffering a serious TBI on Jan. 7 when he crashed in training. The knee he also injured is said to be fine, but he admitted to some Swiss announcers a week ago in Garmisch, he was still suffering a sort-of visual delay or, in his words, his “steering machine” was still a bit off. Thus, he sat out those races.
In softer, more moderate terrain this year, such as Val d’Isere and Val Gardena, he finished first and second, respectively. According to U.S. coach Chris Beckman, if this course has a close equivalent, Gardena might be it. Couple that with start number three and snow conditions that might keep speeds down to where his steering machine won’t be overly taxed, don’t count him out. He’ll also be skiing with the added incentive that came with his last-minute decision to race — taking the spot of his younger brother, Gino.
The best-ranked Austrians Vincent Kriechmayr – No. 1 in the world — and Olympic super G champion Matthias Mayer, are both on incredible form, but unlike Caviezel, have not fared well this year on easier terrain and softer snow. They’re not to be counted out, but it makes the pressure of being counted on all the heavier.
The man who comes in ever-so-slightly below the radar is Marco Odermatt. You might remember him barreling onto the scene in Beaver Creek in December of 2019. He went from the edge of disaster to eventual winner, and was just 21 years of age. It was his second time in Beaver Creek and he skied it without a hint of apprehension. He’s also as versatile as they come when it comes to varied conditions and terrain. Do not avert your eyes when he’s on course.
This also has the scent of American Travis Ganong. He showed his speed in the last races in Garmisch, only mistakes away from the podium in both DH and super G. He’s a master of speed management in these types of new scenarios and has a touch on softer snow that is part and parcel with his upbringing in the chutes of Squaw Valley, California. His challenge will be the bib number 17.
Then again, with high winds predicted, the larger challenge might well be getting out of the start at all.