As tradition dictates, it was in Sölden, Austria, that the best skiers in the world met, Sunday, October 24, for the resumption of the World Cup, with a giant slalom (first round at 10 time). In this Olympic “season” – the Winter Games will take place in China at the beginning of February 2022 – this first meeting will allow everyone to gauge the glide of the competition. And if there is one that will be closely scrutinized in the starting gate, it is the Frenchman Alexis Pinturault.
At 30, the Courchevel skier has just had the best season of his career. In March, at the end of the giant slalom in Lenzerheide (Switzerland), he won the big crystal globe, rewarding the winner of the general classification of the World Cup. Only three other French people had achieved this feat in the past: Jean-Claude Killy, in 1967 and 1968; Michèle Jacot, in 1970; and Luc Alphand, in 1997.
With this title, which he had been aiming for for many years, Alexis Pinturault ensures that he is approaching the new season “More serenely, with more lightness”. “I no longer have the obligation to myself to go and find the big globe”, he confided, at the end of September. “When he won this famous giant at Lenzerheide, we were all very relieved. We have achieved a life goal ”, adds Fabien Saguez, the national technical director.
Pinturault “is really the most versatile skier on the circuit”, according to Julien Lizeroux
But having won at the top of world skiing also has a consequence: Alexis Pinturault has changed status. Outsider throughout the period of domination of the Austrian Marcel Hirscher (winner of the big crystal globe from 2012 to 2019, year of his retirement), he is now the favorite. He will have to assume it, especially in the face of competition from the young Swiss Marco Odermatt (24), second in the general classification last season.
“I would not say that his status has changed since last year, people in the middle have known for ten years his potential”, however tempers the French skier Victor Muffat-Jeandet. This change of dimension does not worry Julien Lizeroux either. “He’s really the most versatile skier on the circuit. He is able to ski quickly in all disciplines and in almost all conditions, explains the second in the Slalom World Cup in 2010, and retired from the slopes since January. He achieved his goal. He just has to continue on his course, and the rest will be good. “
“He really is an alien! “
The rest is this new season and the quest for World Cup victories, small globes of specialties and a new big crystal globe. But, above all, Alexis Pinturault is going to attack the last title missing from his record: an Olympic title. “It will be a very important goal. Everyone knows what the Games represent ”, he admits. In two participations, Alexis Pinturault has never managed to climb on the top step of the podium during the Olympic Games: he gleaned silver on the combined in 2018, and bronze twice in the giant slalom, in 2014 and 2018.
In Beijing, he will be the leader of a French delegation which will present serious arguments, like Mathieu Faivre – reigning world champion in giant slalom and parallel -, Thibaut Favrot, Clément Noël or Victor Muffat. -Jeandet. And even if Alexis Pinturault has been training for two years in an individual structure, his aura should shine on the rest of the French delegation.
“It’s really inspiring to be around a skier like Alexis, says Victor Muffat-Jeandet, who shared with him the combined podium in 2018 (third). What he did to win the big globe, we do not realize, but it is exceptional. He really is an alien! “
An alien, or ” a beast “, as Julien Lizeroux and the rest of the France group prefer to call him, who is just waiting to be unleashed in the Sölden arena, where he has already won in 2016 and 2019. Favorite chosen each time that ‘he’ll be putting on the skis this season, he won’t have to move mountains to win. Simply to continue to hurtle down them at full speed.