“It’s a game and I love that. When I get to the start, I don’t know if I will be the first or the second or the last one, so this is just amazing.”
Skiing competitions are a game of thrones for multi-world champion Arthur Bauchet. The Frenchman is looking to make his next play at the season’s second to last World Cup in La Molina, Spain.
This World Cup, to be held from Monday to Saturday, will feature three giant slalom and two slalom races. Bauchet holds the world titles in both disciplines and will be the man to beat in the highly-competitive men’s standing class.
Instead of getting intimidated, Bauchet is eager to see what challenge the other skiers will mount on the Spanish course.
“It’s a game and I love that,” he said about skiing. “When I get to the start, I don’t know if I will be the first or the second or the last one, so this is just amazing.”
Bauchet identified Switzerland’s Theo Gmur and Thomas Pfyl, Austria’s Markus Salcher, and Canada’s Alexis Guimond as his top rivals, but added that in a volatile sport like alpine skiing, anyone can emerge a surprising winner.
“One run is one minute and in one minute so many things can happen,” he said. “We can’t say this man will win or this man will win and this man will be second. We don’t know and that’s what I love in this sport.”
Ironically, the athletes that Bauchet interacts with the most - from Canada and Switzerland - are also those who are the biggest threat to his reign.
Paralympic champion in giant slalom Gmur beat Bauchet in two giant slalom races at the World Cup in Veysonnaz, Switzerland. While the Swiss star spent the break between the World Cups preparing for exams and resting, he still managed to squeeze in a full week of training to make sure that Bauchet continues to trail him in the overall World Cup rankings.
Meanwhile, Guimond comes in determined to win a medal at his first World Cup stop of the season, and is a particularly strong contender in giant slalom.
“We met at a Europa Cup in Pitztal and there on out, we were competing really intensely,” Guimond said of his rivalry with Bauchet. “At first I had no idea who he was and it was the same for him. But because we were new up-and-coming athletes, we were just racing at such close times every time and he became quite a rival.”
Women’s standing - French-Canadian rivalry
A similar France-Canada rivalry is expected to play out in the women’s standing races.
France’s Marie Bochet is the undisputed leader in the class, having won all five races at the 2019 World Championships and all six World Cup races she competed in this season.
Canada’s Alana Ramsay and Frederique Turgeon will be trying to break that winning record. For Ramsay, who is the world silver medallist in giant slalom, it will be a particularly important battle because she missed the chance to challenge Bochet in all disciplines at the 2019 Worlds after injuring her arm in the downhill race.
Turgeon got close to Bochet at the 2019 Worlds where she took a silver in slalom, and is the current leader in the discipline after winning two World Cups in slalom in Zagreb, Croatia.
Men’s sitting - Young folks
The Netherlands’ Jeroen Kampschreur and Norway’s Jesper Pedersen will take their rivalry to a fifth country this season when they meet again in Spain.
Kampschreur comes in with a perfect golden streak from the 2019 Worlds, while Pedersen is the Paralympic champion in giant slalom and the current leader in the overall World Cup.
For both, skiing has been a part of their lives since childhood and this is one of their main strengths, according to US athlete Andrew Kurka.
Kurka is the Paralympic champion in downhill, but has yet to break out this season. He has another chance to do so in La Molina.
Men’s vision impaired - Boards to skis
Having skipped the World Cup in Veysonnaz to rest and have fun - including going on an impromptu snowboarding trip - Italy’s four-time world champions Giacomo Bertagnolli and guide Fabrizio Casal are back to regain their lead in the vision impaired standings.
Their main rivals are also readying to tackle the course in La Molina. World champions in giant slalom Marek Kubacka and his guide Maria Zatovicova won two giant slalom races in Veysonnaz, while their Slovakian teammates Miroslav Haraus and guide Maros Hudik are the world silver medallists in slalom.
Women’s vision impaired - Skiing Mozart
Austria’s wonder child Veronika Aigner, who turned 16 last month, is set to compete in her career’s second World Cup in La Molina.
Aigner won both slalom races in Zagreb, competing with her sister Elisabeth Aigner, but could not participate at the 2019 Worlds because she is too young.
Now she will have a chance to test herself against the world’s best once again, including Paralympic slalom champions Menna Fitzpatrick and Jennifer Kehoe, and the world giant slalom silver medallists Melissa Perrine and guide Bobbi Kelly.
Women’s sitting - Champion clash
Two world champions will come head-to-head in the women’s sitting races.
Japan’s Momoka Muraoka holds the world title in giant slalom while Germany’s Anna-Lena Forster is the world champion in slalom.
Muraoka currently leads in the overall World Cup rankings, but Forster is only 100 points behind and can turn the tables in her favour in La Molina.
You can watch the La Molina World Cup on World Para Alpine Skiing website and Facebook page.