The snow has finally fallen. The slopes of Courchevel and Méribel are now ready to receive skiers from all over the world, this Monday February 6, at the opening of the World Ski Championships (until February 19). For the fifth time in its history – after Chamonix in 1937 and 1962, Grenoble in 1968 and Val-d’Isère in 2009, the French Alps welcome the world’s cream of alpine skiing.
The real stars expected of these Worlds will be, without hesitation, Mikaela Shiffrin and Marco Odermatt. The American, world number one, double gold medalist at the Olympic Games in Sochi (2014) and Pyeongchang (2018) and six-time world champion, is lining up the victories this season. It is also 85 successes in the World Cup, very close to the absolute record of the Swedish giant Ingemar Stenmark (86 between 1974 and 1989). The Swiss Marco Odermatt gained enormous confidence last year with his title at the Olympic Games and by obtaining his first big Crystal Globe. The Swiss seems on another planet, outclassing all his opponents.
French chances: veterans and the desert?
On the French side, the certainties are less obvious. At 42, Olympic downhill vice-champion Johan Clarey achieved a new feat with a second place on the legendary downhill in Kitzbühel (Austria) on January 21. A good omen for the Worlds of Courchevel and Méribel, even if the return to form of the veteran seems to hide a worrying French desert. In slalom, Alexis Pinturault seems to be at the end of the cycle. Clément Noël, crowned Olympic champion last winter in Beijing, had a complicated start to the season before finally winning the slalom in Schladming (Austria) on January 24. Double reigning world champion (Giant and Parallel), Mathieu Faivre has not yet regained his former level.
For women, not much better. Behind Tessa Worley or Romane Miradoli, a young generation embodied by Clara Direz is knocking at the door. After her triple fracture in the face on her fall in Kranjska Gora at the beginning of January, the skier Clarisse Brèche will already be forfeited.
Modest, the French Ski Federation (FFS), through the voice of its president Fabien Saguez, aims to obtain three tricolor medals within these Worlds. “We had capitalized on more, but with all the injuries, you have to be reasonable. If we get three, it will already be a great success for French skiing”assures the latter.
A generation ready to pass the baton
But beyond the performances, the great sporting raout will above all be an opportunity for the French team to witness the peak of a generation, embodied by Tessa Worley and Johan Clarey. Many of them have chosen to extend the adventure to experience these Worlds in France, despite their advanced age and injuries. At 42, after a career punctuated by injuries, Johan Clarey wants to take “revenge on life”. Ditto for Nastasia Noens, 34 years old.
Tessa Worley (33), she does not say it directly, but “yes, it weighed in (his) decision” to continue her career for a few more months, explains to AFP the one who has already obtained two world titles in giant (2013 and 2017). “The possibility of expressing yourself at home is always something special for our French skiers”observes Fabien Saguez. “To make the French proud and happy, through an event like this, is unique. »
The president of the FFS recognizes it, a generation transfer is always something that is being prepared “for the athletes as well as for the Federation”. “It is never guaranteed to find champions as great as previous generations. And at the same time, those who are about to play their last World Cup leave a form of legacy. »
For the leader, the Federation will aim to build on this legacy to anticipate future competitions. “The resilience they have shown (the veterans of the French team), through successes, failures, injuries should inspire the younger generations who will follow to do something about it. » And why not this month of February?
The female bobsleigh tandem on the right slope
We had left them with a little disappointment at the Beijing Winter Games in 2022. Margot Boch and Carla Sénéchal were, of course, the first French women to qualify in bobsleigh for the Olympic fortnight, but they had only finished thirteenth in two-man bobsleigh. . They have decided to change everything for the campaign that will take them to the Milan Games in 2026: a new machine, and above all new management, with Bruno Mingeon, the former tricolor driver, 1999 world champion and medalist, to advise them. bronze at the Nagano Games in 1998. Good pick: the two young women (23 and 26) took a very encouraging fifth place, on February 4, at the two-man bobsleigh world championship in Saint-Moritz (Switzerland). A result beyond their expectations, which bodes well for the future.