Sölden: favorites, highlights, Germans: World Cup start for ski stars

Accompanied by a heated environmental debate, the Alpine Ski World Cup starts the new season in Sölden at the weekend.

Sölden: favorites, highlights, Germans: World Cup start for ski stars

Accompanied by a heated environmental debate, the Alpine Ski World Cup starts the new season in Sölden at the weekend. Before the traditional start on the Rettenbachferner with the women's giant slalom on Saturday and the men's on Sunday (10 a.m. / ZDF and Eurosport), the protagonists try to focus on sport.

What can we expect this winter? Who are the big favorites, which races are the highlights? And what about the Germans? A look at the most exciting questions.

Who are the favorites?

The American Mikaela Shiffrin and the Swiss Marco Odermatt are starting as defending champions and the first contenders for another overall World Cup victory. Shiffrin took the ancient record for most World Cup victories from Swedish former ski star Ingemar Stenmark last season. She has now stood at the top of the podium 88 times. The majority of experts are certain that the 28-year-old will break the 100 World Cup success mark sooner or later. In the giant slalom, her specialist discipline alongside slalom, the exceptional athlete is the direct favorite on Saturday in Sölden.

For the men, whiz kid Odermatt takes to the slopes as the hunted. The 26-year-old has developed enormously over the past two winters, winning the overall World Cup twice, as well as Olympic and World Cup gold in the giant slalom. He also achieved six World Cup successes in the Super-G last season. What's still missing is a victory in the downhill. Here the Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde, Shiffrin's partner and Odermatt's fiercest rival in terms of the overall standings, was the most recent dominator.

Which races are the highlights?

It is a season without major events such as the Olympics or World Cup, so all eyes are on the World Cup. The first Matterhorn descents from Zermatt to Cervinia are scheduled to take place in November - a new prestigious event in the racing calendar that was canceled last winter due to weather conditions. The speed specialists are also challenged on the famous Stelvio slope in Bormio shortly before Christmas and on the world-famous Streif in Kitzbühel in mid-January. On the last weekend in January, the men and a week later the women stop off in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Bavaria. The season finale in March will take place in Saalbach-Hinterglemm, venue for the 2025 World Cup.

What can we expect from the Germans?

Not much at the start in Sölden. The women have no longer been competitive in the giant slalom since Olympic champion Viktoria Rebensburg retired three years ago. On the men's side, the currently best giant slalomist, Alexander Schmid, may not be available again until December in Val d'Isère due to the consequences of a knee injury.

In general, German hopes are again in the technology sector. Lena Dürr was recently very close to the top riders Shiffrin and Petra Vlhova (Slovakia) in the slalom and even won the World Cup in Spindleruv Mlyn in January. Linus Straßer is also always one of the favorites in the slalom race, coming third and fourth twice last winter.

Downhill ace Thomas Dreßen could attack again for the speed men. The Streif winner from 2018 was plagued by numerous health setbacks in previous years, but now has “no new problems physically,” as he recently said. Kira Weidle, runner-up in the 2021 World Cup, raced onto the podium in two World Cup downhills last winter, but overall still fell somewhat short of expectations. She announced that she wanted to “take another step forward” in her flagship discipline.

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