The good news for the Cortina 2021 world championships is, as of yet, there has been no fire nor brimstone. But here’s a checklist of items that have been been thrown into the works: coronavirus, rain, 30 inches of snowfall and, finally, today, avalanche threats, putting the final touch on the cancellation of the women’s super combined.
The new schedule looks like this: women’s super G Tuesday, men’s super combined Wednesday, and men’s super G on Thursday, which will take the place of the first scheduled men’s downhill training run. The women’s combined now gets pushed all the way to Feb. 15. There is a 90% chance of precipitation the day of the men’s combined — some of that looks like rain. So, as for the schedule, stay tuned and stay flexible.
That also goes for the women’s super G tomorrow. The Olympia della Tofana course is as familiar to the field as any course in the world, but the snow conditions tomorrow will be altogether new this season, as in, freshly fallen, soft with temps hovering around the freezing point. Start numbers will be critical, and to understand which numbers are projected to be best, just find yourself a copy of the World Cup start list ranking (it differs from this years’ discipline ranking). It tells you the order in which skiers get to pick their numbers. Top-ranked skiers 1-10 pick odd numbers 1-19. Skiers ranked 11-20 are drawn at random to fill the even berths between to 2-20.
- First-ranked Lara Gut-Behrami picked 7.
- Second-ranked Suter picked 9.
- Third-ranked Brignone picked 5.
Here is what that tells you: While the turns might break down some, no one really wants to go so early that they’re pushing new snow along the flat. Or, at least, they think the flats might speed up some with a few forerunners and a few racers.
Where the decision gets more interesting is with Italian Marta Bassino. She could have chosen to ski 13th, but chose to ski first instead. It says two things: 1) She is confident enough to ski without a report of how other skiers have fared, and 2) she thinks she can make up time on a clean course — and she has a penchant for a very direct line that would not welcome prescribed ruts — which will offset time lost on the flat.
We will see. Here’s another leaf of tea I got from my Italian Eurosport colleague Gian Bonzi: Since 2017, the Italian women have won seven times in four different disciplines when an Italian has set the course, and the Italians are setting this course. So, take that to Vegas.
Strange to say it, but the wildcard may be slalom-GS rivals Mikaela Shiffrin and Petra Vlhova. Both skiers were going to use the super combined to decide if they were ready to race the super G or take the time to prepare for other races. That option is off the table, so they’re in.
Shiffrin, the defending world champion in super G, hasn’t raced this discipline in over a year and has otherwise trained four days — good days, according to coach Mike Day. She’s now outside the top 10, but drew a promising start number: 10. She’s such a natural in super G, more so than giant slalom from what I’ve seen. I wouldn’t put a win past her. But if it gets rattly and chippy, I don’t know that she has the miles to push through such a scenario.
In super G, Vlhova has reached the podium once this year. She has clearly shown the speed to have done it other times, but mistakes got in the way. It’s not a bad way to enter worlds: no expectation, but plenty of speed.
I would be remiss if I did not include the hard-charging Ester Ledecka, whose tactics occasionally take her astray, but whose gliding speed is spectacular. As we learned to say since her gold-medal performance in 2018 with bib 26, “It ain’t over ‘til the Czech lady skis.”