The 2015-16 FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup is the 50th edition of the prestigious competition and having begun back on the 24th October, we are now very much entering the business end of the season. Between now and the seasonal finale events in Saint Moritz on 20th March, all of the top titles will be decided and this brief re-cap should get you right up to date in time for the final twists and turns of the campaign.
The Men’s Events
So far in the men’s Alpine Skiing World Cup, there have been 35 of a scheduled 44 events completed and those races have delivered a huge amount of drama and no little heartbreak for some of the skiers. The early part of the season was dominated by Austrian Marcel Hirscher and Norwegian Axsel Lund Svindal, who between them took nine victories from the first 11 events.
Other competitors were still hot on their heels however, but the chase of one such rival was ended on the 19th December during the downhill event at Val Gardena in Italy. That competitor was none other than Austrian Olympic champion Matthias Mayer who suffered a season-ending fracture of his sixth and seventh thoracic vertebra after a severe crash. As testament to his dedication and toughness, Mayer is still hopeful of a return to top class action in time for the 2017 season but his serious injury was by no means the end of the drama in the current campaign.
Just three days after Mayer’s injury, compatriot Hircher’s own season could easily have been ended in the most bizarre of fashions. Whilst completing his slalom run at Madonna di Campiglio, the Austrian was nearly struck by a camera drone which crashed after broadcasters lost control. Fortunately Hirscher was not injured and even managed to still finish second in the event but the crash did unsurprisingly lead to the camera drones being banned by the FIS.
Hirscher’s narrow escape seemingly left the season as a three-way battle for supremacy between himself, Lund Svindal and fellow Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen. That trio tragically became a duo however, after Lund Svindal – the overall World Cup leader at the time – crashed out during a downhill run at Kitzbuhel on 23rd January. The Norwegian needed immediate knee surgery and after his and a number of other serious crashes, the event was abandoned with only 30 skiers having left the gate.
As things stand therefore, the overall World Cup title seems to be a straight fight between Hirscher and Kristoffersen, who has a total of 283 points to make up on his rival across nine events if he is to come out on top.
The Women’s Events
The 2015-16 women’s Alpine Skiing World Cup has delivered loads of excitement and drama through the first 32 of its 40 scheduled events, despite the beginning of the campaign being most notable for those skiers not present at the start gate. Last season’s top two Anna Kenninger and Tina Maze had announced before the season began that they would not compete and American legend Lindsey Vonn’s rehab from an injury that ended her 2014-15 season also removed her from the first two months of this campaign.
It was Vonn’s compatriot Mikaela Shiffrin who took early advantage of the absence of that trio and recorded two victories and a second place in the first four events. Shiffrin’s own season however, was interrupted in mid-December by a serious injury following a crash during practice for an event in Are, Sweden. The injury would put Shiffrin out for a full two months during the heart of the season, and would open the door for the returning Vonn and Swiss skier Lara Gut to move toward the top of the rankings.
14 victories shared between that pair so far this season has seen them pull out close to a 300 point lead over all other competitors at the top of the overall World Cup rankings, with just eight events still to go. The most notable amongst those victories however, has to be Vonn’s success in Zauchensee, Austria on the 9th January. That win saw the American match the all-time record of 36 downhill World Cup victories and her two subsequent wins this season in the discipline mean that she is now out on her own with a total of 38 to date.
In spite of her record breaking exploits though, Vonn by no means has the 2016 overall World Cup title sewn up, with Gut sitting only 28 points behind the current leader ahead of trips to Jasna, Lenzerheide and then Saint Moritz. The conclusion to the season then, should be a high octane and high drama affair that will likely come down to the final weekend in Switzerland on the 19th and 20th March.