Para alpine skiers measure their progress in seconds. So a nearly two-year wait for another World Cup victory felt especially long for eight-time Paralympic champion Marie Bochet.
The French standing skier finally managed to reach the top of the podium in December and now heads into the final races of 2021 with a dazzling career record of 101 World Cup victories.
Bochet will next compete at the World Cup in St. Moritz, Switzerland, which is hosting two slalom and three giant slalom races from 17-21 December.
THE LONG WAIT
Marie Bochet was not simply the one to beat at the start of this Paralympic cycle, she was unbeatable. Winning five out of five gold medals at the 2019 World Para Alpine Skiing Championships and all of her World Cup races that season, often by margins of more than five seconds, it seemed that nobody could break the Frenchwoman’s winning streak.
But things got shaky at the start of 2020 as Bochet’s stride faltered and other skiers outraced the French star to take the gold.
Bochet recorded her last World Cup victory in Juzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russia in February 2020, then racing against a small competition field. That was her career’s 99th World Cup victory.
Much to her frustration, this victory count has remained the same for nearly two years, until the 2021-22 season opener in Steinach am Brenner, Austria where Bochet took back-to-back gold in the super-G races on the first day of competition.
“It is very, very important for me to pass this cap of 100 victories,” Bochet said. “The two last winters were not easy for me. I had bad feelings and I didn’t find a solution and I thought that I can never win again because some young girls are coming who are very fresh and exciting.
“I thought maybe I will miss these ‘100 victories’ and because of that it’s very amazing to win it and on the first race of the season too, where I met the other girls. It’s a long time that I don’t see them. This victory is very important for me because it’s this cap and it’s amazing too because the level was very high,” added the French.
Bochet attributes her lacklustre racing over the past seasons to mental blocks and a dip in motivation. Now having passed the 100 gold medal mark, the skier says she is going into the next races with more positive thoughts and a newfound passion for the sport.
“I had a very good autumn. For a few years I didn’t have fun on the skis and this year it’s very cool,” Bochet said. “I worked a lot on me, on my future and life in this universe. I needed to work on me and not just the mountain feelings. It’s more than that life, it’s about what I want and why I continue to ski too. I found a few answers over these years and I feel much better.
“When you work on yourself like that, you know where you are going, you know where you are and you’ll know who you are and it’s very cool to have these feelings.”
In addition to her two gold medals in super-G at Steinach am Brenner, Bochet picked up a bronze in the giant slalom on the last day of competition. Here too the skier benefited from her new approach to racing.
“I was sixth in the first run in giant, but I’m OK with that and that showed a big evolution in my mental state,” Bochet said. “I improved because I can observe and find a solution so I’m very happy with that. I’m very happy with the way it is. It was very hard and hurt a lot the last two seasons but I learned a lot so I feel better and I’m happy to be here.”
Bochet will look to reaffirm her positive mindset at the World Cup in St. Moritz where her top competition from the past seasons, Canada’s Mollie Jepsen, China’s Zhang Mengqiu, Sweden’s Ebba Aarsjoe and Russia’s Varvara Voronchikhina, will also compete.
CAPPING OFF THE YEAR
A total of 134 athletes from 30 nations will race at the World Cup in St. Moritz with Japan, Austria and Switzerland sending the biggest delegations.
USA athletes will participate in their first World Cup this season. Among them is the 2019-20 overall Crystal Globe winner Laurie Stephens who will face Japan’s Momoka Muraoka and Germany’s Anna-Lena Forster in the women’s sitting class.
One-athlete delegations from Argentina, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Libya and Mongolia are also set to compete at the Swiss ski resort in the hopes of collecting the points needed to qualify for the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.
With less than 30 days to go until the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships, all eyes will be on Norway’s Jesper Pedersen in the men’s sitting class. The overall Crystal Globe winner of the past three seasons won all the World Cup races in Austria despite tough competition from the Netherlands’ Jeroen Kampschreur and Japan’s Taiki Morii.
France’s Arthur Bauchet will also try to extend his undefeated streak from Steinach am Brenner in the men’s standing class as he fends off local star, triple Paralympic champion Theo Gmuer, who is regaining his momentum on the circuit and getting ever closer to Bauchet’s times.
Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova remains the one to beat in the women’s vision impaired class, while in the men’s vision impaired races it promises to be another battle between Italy’s Giacomo Bertagnolli and Austria’s Michael Scharnagl.
Live results from the World Cup in St. Moritz will be available on the World Para Alpine Skiing website.