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The Best Racers in the World Get Ready to Battle for Gold and Glory

Who will leave it all on Cortina’s slopes at the Alpine World Championships? Here are SKI’s top picks.

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Preparations are furiously underway for the 2021 FIS Alpine World Championship, set to kick off in Cortina D’Ampezzo, Italy, on Feb. 8. Outside of the Winter Olympics, the World Championships, held every two years, is the biggest opportunity for the best alpine racers in the world to go head to head in all six alpine events for gold and glory.

Anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the World Cup standings will know that this year’s World Championships stand to deliver some of the most exciting races of the season. Despite the pandemic, unpredictable snowfall in Europe, and all the associated hiccups, the 2020-’21 racing season has gone off without any major glitches. As a result, we’ve seen new podium contenders like Americans Breezy Johnson and Ryan Cochran-Siegle emerge, as well as veterans such as Mikaela Shiffrin battling to maintain their dominance amid a growing field of fierce competitors.

With so many rising stars and talented veterans in play, here are SKI’s pick for who to watch in each event during the 2021 Alpine World Championship.

Women’s Super-G, Feb. 9

  • Who to watch: Mikaela Shiffrin, Lara Gut-Behrami, Ester Ledecka, Marta Bassino
  • 2019 Super-G World Champion: Mikaela Shiffrin, U.S.
  • SKI’s Pick: Lara Gut-Behrami
Lara Gut-Behrami is airborne on the final jump of Crans Montana downhill
Lara Gut-Behrami of Switzerland competes during the World Cup women’s super-G on January 24, 2021 in Crans Montana Switzerland. Photo: Francis Bompard/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

Mikaela Shiffrin, 2019 World Champion in super-G, recently announced that she is planning to start in the Feb. 9 event. She has not raced a speed event all season, but Shiffrin is feeling confident after a solid training block leading up to the World Championships. While she herself may not expect to win the race, we expect her to perform well.

But keep an eye on Switzerland’s Lara Gut-Behrami, who has won the last four consecutive super-G events on the World Cup. She currently leads the super-G standings by a mile and given her consistency, is our favorite to win the World Championship super-G title.

But Ester Ledecka of the Czech Republic and Marta Bassino of Italy will also be racers to watch. Ledecka, the 2018 Olympic Champion in super-G, is known for leaving everything on the race track. Bassino from Italy has been having one heck of a season on the World Cup and currently ranks sixth in super-G.

Men’s Alpine Combined, Feb. 10

  • Who to watch: Alexis Pinturault, Marco Odermatt, Ryan Cochran-Siegle
  • 2019 Alpine Combined World Champion: Alexis Pinturault, France
  • SKI’s Pick: Alexis Pinturault
"Alexi Pinturault in Wengen"
France’s Alexis Pinturault attacks the Wengen GS course. Photo: Erich Spiess/Red Bull

Again, we have no current season results to go off of for the men’s Alpine Combined, but it’s safe to bet on France’s Alexis Pinturault. The 2019 World Champion in the men’s combined currently leads the men’s overall World Cup standings by a long shot. It’s hard to guess who else will start in the alpine combined event, but if American Ryan Cochran-Siegle is in the mix, he’ll also be one to watch given his strong performance across speed and technical events during this World Cup season.

Men’s Super-G, Feb. 11

  • Who to watch: Vincent Kriechmayr, Dominik Paris, Ryan Cochran-Siegle, Travis Ganong
  • 2019 Super-G World Champion: Dominik Paris, Italy
  • SKI’s Pick: Vincent Kriechmayr

On the men’s side, Austrian Vincent Kriechmayr currently leads the super-G World Cup standings, but his performance can be inconsistent. Still, Kriechmayr is our favorite to win the men’s super-G in Cortina now that Norwegian Aleksander Amodt Kilde, currently ranked third in super-G and a major threat in the discipline, will not be competing at the World Championships because of a knee injury.

But there’s also no discounting American young-gun Ryan Cochran-Siegle, who this season became the first American to win a World Cup super-G event since 2006. Cochran-Siegle sustained a cervical injury in the Hahnenkamm race in late January, and has not yet announced whether he will start in the World Championships in Cortina.

Women’s Downhill, Feb. 13

  • Who to watch: Breezy Johnson, Corinne Suter, Ester Ledecka
  • 2019 Downhill World Champion: Ilka Stuhec, Slovenia
  • SKI’s Pick: Breezy Johnson
Breezy Johnson, Audi FIS Alpine Ski World Cup Women's Downhill
Breezy Johnson in action during the World Cup women’s downhill on January 22, 2021 in Crans Montana, Switzerland. Photo: Alain Grosclaude/Agence Zoom/Getty Images

American Breezy Johnson, currently ranked second in downhill, has been the most consistent performer on the women’s downhill circuit besides Italy’s Sofia Goggia. And with Goggia out of contention after sustaining a season-ending injury in the last World Cup event in Garmisch, Germany, Johnson is our favorite to finally claim the top podium spot.

But a win won’t come easy, and Johnson will have to trump top contenders Corinne Suter of Switzerland, currently ranked third in downhill, and the Czech Republic’s Ester Ledecka, who sits in fourth.

Men’s Downhill Feb. 14

  • Who to watch: Beat Feuz, Dominik Paris, Matthias Mayer, Travis Ganong, Bryce Bennett
  • 2019 Downhill World Champion: Kjetil Jansrud, Norway
  • SKI’s Pick: Beat Feuz
"Domonik Paris Kitzbuhel"
Italy’s Dominik Paris takes flight on the World Cup downhill course in Kitzbuhel Photo: Erich Spiess/Red Bull

Switzerland’s Beat Feuz currently ranks first in the men’s downhill World Cup standings, and he’s one of the most consistent speed skiers on the men’s circuit. He’s our pick to win gold on Feb. 14, though he’ll have to work hard to fend of Italian Dominik Paris, who made his return to World Cup racing after ACL surgery and rehab this season. Paris just clinched his first downhill win since his return in the Garmisch-Partenkrichen downhill on Feb. 5.

While they’re currently ranked outside the top 10 in downhill, it’s definitely worth keeping an eye on Americans Travis Ganong and Bryce Bennett. Both have achieved top 10 results in this event over the course of their careers and could easily find themselves in the top 10 in Cortina.

Women’s Alpine Combined, Feb. 15

  • Who to watch: Michelle Gisin, Mikaela Shiffrin, Petra Vlhova, Marta Bassino, Federica Brignone, Wendy Holdener
  • 2019 Alpine Combined World Champion: Wendy Holdener, Switzerland
  • SKI’s pick: Michelle Gisin
"Michelle Gisin finishes the Alpine Combined slalom."
Michelle Gisin celebrates Olympic Gold in the women’s Alpine Combined race at the 2018 Olympic Winter Games. Photo: Crystal Sagan

This year’s women’s alpine combined World Championship event, a combination of one super-G and one slalom run, will be the first alpine combined race of the season after all previously scheduled races had to be cancelled due to weather.

We have no actual alpine combined results from this season to go off of, but we expect the ladies who have been consistently cracking the top 10 in World Cup races across the board to be the top contenders in this event.

That includes current overall World Cup leader Petra Vlhova from Slovakia. Vlhova is currently ranked first in slalom and 11th in downhill. But it also includes rising star Michelle Gisin from Switzerland, who collected her first ever slalom podium this season to add to World Cup podium-finishes in every single event. Gisin, 2018 Olympic gold medalist in the women’s Alpine Combined event, is currently ranked third overall on the World Cup and is our top pick for the women’s Alpine Combined.

But don’t forget about Mikaela Shiffrin. Shiffrin, who has not started in any speed events this season in favor of focusing on the technical events on the World Cup, announced that she will be starting in the alpine combined. Though she hasn’t raced any super-G events since winning the Bansko World Cup super-G more than a year ago, she has had an opportunity to focus exclusively on training for the past two weeks. As defending World Champion in super-G and slalom, she is a definite contender for the title in the Alpine Combined event.

Women’s Giant Slalom, Feb. 18

  • Who to watch: Marta Bassino, Tessa Worley, Michelle Gisin, Mikaela Shiffrin
  • 2019 GS World Champion: Petra Vlhova, Slovakia
  • SKI’s Pick: Mikaela Shiffrin
Mikaela Shiffrin, 2021 Kranjska Gora GS
Mikaela Shiffrin carves down the women’s GS course in Kranjska Gora. Photo: Jurij Kodrun/Getty Images

Italy’s Marta Bassino currently leads the World Cup standings in giant slalom, and given her consistency in races this season, she is a favorite to win the women’s GS in Cortina. But there are so many talented ladies who have been going head to head in this technical discipline all season, that this GS race is still wide open. Defending GS World Champion and current World Cup overall leader Petra Vlhova will certainly be one to watch.

Despite the fact that she has slid down to fifth place in the World Cup GS rankings, Mikaela Shiffrin is still SKI’s pick to win the GS in Cortina. Shiffrin has a knack for performing at her highest level when the stakes are especially high, and after focusing exclusively on the technical events this season, we expect her to pull out all the stops on Feb. 18.

Men’s Giant Slalom, Feb. 19

  • Who to watch: Alexis Pinturault, Marco Odermatt
  • 2019 GS World Champion: Henrik Kristoffersen, Norway
  • SKI’s Pick: Alexis Pinturault
"Henrik Kristoffersen in Levi 2018"
Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen bashes gates in the World Cup slalom in Levi, Finland. Photo: Erich Spiess/ASP/Red Bull Content Pool

France’s Alexis Pinturault has been the most consistent performer in the men’s Giant Slalom events on the World Cup this season and is currently ranked first overall in the discipline. He is carrying winning momentum into the World Championships, having won the last three World Cup GS events. He’s our pick to take gold on Feb. 19.

But Switzerland’s Marco Odermatt, currently ranked second in GS, has been snapping at Pinturault’s heels all season and will certainly be another racer to watch. American Tommy Ford, who was ranked fifth in GS this season, unfortunately won’t be competing at the World Championship after sustaining a season-ending injury in the Adelboden GS race in early January.

Women’s Slalom, Feb. 20

  • Who to watch: Mikaela Shiffrin, Petra Vlhova, Katharina Liensberger
  • 2019 Slalom World Champion: Mikaela Shiffrin, U.S.
  • SKI’s Pick: Mikaela Shiffrin
Mikaela Shiffrin bashes a slalom gate
Mikaela Shiffrin en route to her 44th World Cup slalom victory. Photo: Joe Klamar/AFP via Getty Images

The competition in this technical event is fierce, but Shiffrin has been able to pull away from the field in her signature event in the last four World Championships. We predict that Shiffrin will take gold on Feb. 19 to claim her fifth consecutive Slalom World Championship title.

But Shiffrin will have to fight hard to win out against Vlhova and Katharina Liensberger from Austria, who have been having exceptionally strong seasons in slalom. Vlhova currently leads the slalom standings, with Liensberger in second ahead of Shiffrin in third.

Men’s Slalom, Feb. 21

  • Who to watch: Marco Schwarz, Ramon Zenhaeusern, Henrik Kristoffersen
  • 2019 Slalom World Champion: Marcel Hirscher, Austria
  • SKI’s Pick: Marco Schwarz
"Marcel Hirscher skis the slalom in Zagreb"
Legendary slalom skier and 2019 Slalom World Champion, Marcel Hirscher, is retired, leaving the World Champ title wide open.

With Austrian slalom legend and 2019 Slalom World Champion Marcel Hirscher now in retirement and out of the picture, the men’s slalom event on Feb. 21 will be one for the books as new contenders duke it out for the World Championship title.

Austria’s Marco Schwarz currently ranks first in slalom on the men’s World Cup circuit because he’s managed to consistently find the podium throughout this season—a feat that’s notoriously difficult in the slalom discipline. However Switzerland’s Ramon Zenhaeuserrn and Norway’s Henrik Kristoffersen, among many others, will also be gunning for the top podium spot on Feb. 21, and are likely to launch out of the start gate with guns blazing.

Follow SKI’s coverage of the 2021 Alpine World Championships on the Competitions and Events page