Alexis Pinturault triumphs
Alexis Pinturault became the first French skier to win an overall World Cup title since Luc Alphand in the 1996-97 season, successfully resisting the challenge of Swiss Marco Odermatt, who finished second. Pinturault, 30, also picked up crystal globes in the giant slalom and parallel world cup, with the three-time Olympic medalist finishing the year with a silver and bronze medal (in the combined and super-G) at the 2021 World Championships in Cortina.
Pinturault is part of a French team that shone in the technical disciplines throughout the season: Clement Noel (nine total cup victories, two in the 2020-21 season) is a rising star in the slalom, while two-time Olympian Mathieu Faivre won gold in the giant and parallel slalom at Cortina to give him three world championship titles (adding to the team event gold in 2017).
Marco Odermatt and Marco Schwarz’s magic year
On the other side of the Alps, Marco Odermatt (SUI) has become a top skier, with three victories and nine podium finishes in the 2020-21 season. The six-time junior world champion finished second in the overall competition and should be a name to watch in Beijing.
Indeed, the Swiss team will be a strong contender to medal in multiple events at the Winter Olympics, with PyeongChang gold medalists Loic Meillard and Ramon Zenhausern in the squad.
The Swiss will surely face a hefty challenge from Austria, with Marco Schwarz (AUT) – who dominated the slalom cup – and PyeongChang team silver medallist Manuel Feller, who snagged two slalom victories in the 2020-21 season, two of the all-stars of the squad.
Henrik Kristoffersen (NOR) had a somewhat disappointing season with a solitary race victory after winning the slalom and giant slalom globes in the 2019-20 season. But the double Olympic medalist did pick up a bronze in the slalom at the 2021 World Championships, so expect him to push for another medal in Beijing.
He should receive some help in the team event from Sebastian Foss-Solevaag (NOR), who picked up one victory this season (slalom) in addition to winning double gold in the slalom and team event at the World Championships. And let’s not forget about Filip Zubcic (CRO) either, who picked up five race podiums with two victories this season. On his day, he can beat anyone in the giant slalom.
Four in a row for Feuz
Beat Feuz (SUI) is, at the moment, the king of the speed races after winning his fourth downhill cup in a row – a feat which places him among the greats of alpine skiing. The Swiss veteran won a silver and bronze in the super-G and downhill respectively at PyeongChang 2018, and picked up a bronze in the downhill at the 2021 World Championships. No doubt he will be among the favourites at the Winter Games.
He should be challenged by the two Austrian champions, Matthias Mayer (gold in Sochi in the super-G and in the downhill in PyeongChang) and Vincent Kriechmayr, who is coming off an incredible season after winning the super-G cup and two gold medals in the downhill and super-G at the World Championships.
Also worth watching are Norwegian speedsters Aleksander A. Kilde (2020 World Cup overall winner), who is returning to competition after rupturing a ligament, and five-time Olympic medalist Kjetil Jansrud.
Fourth time the charm for 'Domme'?
Dominik 'Domme' Paris, despite a glittering career with 19 cup victories (one in February 2021 in the downhill in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, on his return from a ligament injury), is yet to reach the podium in three attempts after competing at Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018. Will his luck turn at Beijing 2022?
After winning two specialty globes in 2020 (slalom and parallel slalom), Slovak Petra Vlhová finally won her first overall World Cup in 2021 (the first ever for her country), beating out a splendid Lara Gut Behrami (SUI), who herself won the super-G World Cup as well as claiming the 2021 World Championships in the giant slalom and super-G.
The return of the Queen
Mikaela Shiffrin (USA) will undoubtedly be the woman to beat yet again in Beijing after winning two bronze (slalom and super-G), a silver (giant slalom) and a gold (combined) at the World Championships.
Shiffrin is a three-time overall World Cup champion, a four-time world champion in slalom, and a three-time Olympic medalist, and will be favoured in every event she enters at the 2022 Winter Games.
However, she will more than likely have to beat Olympic silver medalist Katharina Liensberger (AUT) if she is to return to the top of the podium, who won the 2021 slalom World Cup and gold medals in the slalom and parallel slalom at the ’21 World Championships.
Italian pair Marta Bassino and Sofia Goggia stole the show in the giant slalom and downhill cups this season, both winning four races as they took home the crystal globes in both disciplines respectively.
Goggia is the reigning Olympic champion in the downhill, and should once again challenge for the podium in Beijing if she’s able to recover from her recent injury. Bassino finished fifth in the giant slalom in her Olympic debut in PyeongChang, but based on her performances on the alpine circuit this season, she is a strong contender for a medal in Beijing.