Cortina 2021 predictions: Can Mikaela Shiffrin strike gold?
Or do the host Italians party?
Welcome to the 2021 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Cortina, Italy, the worlds that were never meant to happen.
Cortina seemed like a logical enough place for worlds as a regular stop on the World Cup tour as well as the home of the 1956 Winter Olympics. Then came COVID-19 which devastated northern Italy in particular.
Last spring, the World Cup finals, traditionally hosted by next winter’s worlds host, in Cortina were scrubbed. Cortina also asked FIS to move these 2021 worlds to next spring after the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing to give the region/world time to recover from the pandemic.
FIS declined, the show must go on, and the women kick it off Monday with the super combined, a change in the traditional order of events, followed by both men’s and women’s super-G on Tuesday.
Here are our predictions which aren’t worth the paper they are printed on or the data space they occupy on the internet, but it’s good fun, people. From experience, this is a hopeless, but entertaining exercise.
We’ll start with the topic of most interest locally with the ladies.
Super combined, Monday
The combi returns. The parallel giant slalom or slalom has replaced the combined in the name of COVID safety, but ostensibly as more a trial run for being more television friendly than the combi. I love the combined event — in this case a super-G in the morning and a slalom as the nightcap.
Keep the combined, people.
Women’s events only
Country G . S . B . Tot
Italy . 2 . 1 . 1 . 4
Slovakia . 2 1 . 0 3
USA . 0 . 1 . 2 . 3
Switzerland . 0 . 2 0 . 2
Austria . 0 . 0 . 2 . 2
Czech Rep. 1 . 0 . 0 . 1
France . 0 . 0 . 1 . 1
Mikaela Shiffrin announced on Tuesday that not only is she entering the super-G, but also the combined. It’s surprising to see Shiffrin enter more events than she did at worlds in 2019 in Sweden when she was on an historic roll.
It’s also different to see Mikaela enter back-to-back events at a major championship. Weather during the 2018 Olympics in South Korea forced the giant slalom and slalom to consecutive days. Shiffrin won gold in the GS, had to do all the ceremonies and then finished fourth in the slalom, where she was the defending gold medalist. (While saying all the right things as Shiffrin always does, it wasn’t hard to read between the lines that she did not consider the situation optimal.)
My bet is that Shiffrin and others are using the combined as a pseudo-training run. The speed element is super-G, which is also being held the next day. Of course, there will be different course sets for the super-Gs, but it makes sense.
Were this a normal year, this is an automatic Mikaela win. This is not a normal year. Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova has made great strides in super-G during the last year and her slalom credentials are impeccable.
Vlhova, Switzerland’s Michelle Gisin and Shiffrin.
Yes, I want to pull the trigger on Mikaela.
Honesty time. I don’t think this is going to be Mikaela’s world championships. I want to be wrong. I want the Vail Daily to run the headline, “FREUD IS AN IDIOT.” We’ll do that if Shiffrin is able to enter her human-cyborg form of 2019.
Yet this would be her first super-G in more than a year since her win in Bansko, Bulgaria, on Jan. 26, 2020, and that is a darn tall order given how her and everyone else’s worlds have changed.
Goofy stuff happens at worlds, so let’s do Ester Ledecka. The Czech Republic snowboarder did it at the Olympics two years ago. Why not at worlds? Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami and Austria’s Tamara Tippler round out the podium.
Lindsey Vonn storms out of retirement and wins. This is not as far-fetched as you think. Madame has 11 wins at Cortina, five in the downhill and could probably slide on her posterior down the piste and be in the points.
Italy’s Sofia Goggia is the overwhelming favorite, having won four downhills this year and being on home snow — Italians will be rooting for her in spirit as there are no fans allowed.
We call for an Italian day with Elena Courtoni in second and American Breezy Johnson firmly entrenched in third.
Giant slalom, Feb. 18
Now we get down to the business portion of worlds. Yes, most of the world is obsessed with speed, but the tech events are the life blood of the world championships, right?
If we get outside of our, “Rah, rah, Mikaela,” bubble, we see that Mikaela is just not herself, particularly in the GS, this year. Again, we hope she is in some special camp where she’s combining military might and a zen-like state of focus to prepare for worlds. We know this is the missing medal in the collection — she’s got everything else from the Olympics or worlds.
Just not this year.
Italy’s Marta Bassino is being Shiffrin-like with four wins in six starts in the discipline, so call it Bassino-Vlhova-Italy’s Federica Brignone.
Slalom, Feb. 20
Again, This is not going to be her world championships. Shiffrin’s run of titles ends with 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2019. She’ll be back. Shiffrin will roll again — at times — like the 2018-19 season. (It is completely unreasonable to expect a full season like that again.)
Shiffrin will win discipline globes again in slalom and GS. She will win the World Cup championship again. She will win races at worlds at Courchevel, France, in 2023 and beyond. She will win a gold in Beijing in 2022.
And, just in case, we share Shiffrin’s social-media post after she won for the first time in Courchevel on Dec. 14 after her father passed in February. She wrote, “Cheers to the wonderful and kind people who said I lost my fire forever. This one’s for you. Also this one’s for every single person who is helping me get the fire back.”
Cheers to the wonderful and kind people who said I lost my fire forever. This one’s for you. Also this one’s for every single person who is helping me get the fire back. pic.twitter.com/PeJvNmiQli— Mikaela Shiffrin (@MikaelaShiffrin) December 14, 2020
Nonetheless, we go Vlhova, Shiffrin and Austia’s Katharina Liensberger.
The men’s predictions will be in Friday’s paper.