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  • Alpine Skiers Cautiously Look Ahead to Beijing 2022


    (ATR) Cortina d’Ampezzo passed the International Ski Federation flag to Courchevel Méribel as the next host of the Alpine World Ski Championships for 2023.

    Mikaela Shiffrin talks to media in Cortina after winning her fourth medal in slalom on Sunday. (ATR)
    As the two-week flagship event concluded on Sunday in the 1956 Olympic resort. some ski racers started to discuss and look forward, cautiously, to the sport’s next major championship, the Beijing 2022 Games. Or perhaps it has more to do with journalists peppering them with questions about the next Winter Games, which are now less than one year away.

    “Prepare for something you can’t prepare for,” says two-time Olympic champion Mikaela Shiffrin, who medaled in four events in Cortina, tops at the championship. “All we can do is try to get a little bit back to normal…first we try to finish the season this year. Last year, about this time, it was being canceled.

    “Hoping this summer we’ll be able to get back to a little more normal life for everyone. For athletes, that will help us get more normal preparation, equipment testing and all the things that go into putting together good performance for an entire season, especially when it’s an Olympic season,” said the 25-year-old U.S. ski racing star.

    “It’s like going in blind – we’re all in the same boat,’ Shiffrin said, about Beijing 2022.

    Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener, 27, who won three medals in PyeongChang 2018 including gold in the mixed team event, anticipates what could be her third Olympic Games.

    “I’m really happy to go to Beijing, it’s a big goal,” Holdener said. “I loved China, I visited before so I will give my best to be there next year, but it’s far away in my head.”

    For many racers, Beijing 2022 remains a great unknown. Downhill and super-G test events scheduled for men and women – at the Chinese National Alpine Skiing Center in the Yanqing venue cluster – both were canceled due to the coronavirus and travel restrictions into China, in February of 2020 and 2021.

    Japanese ski racer Asa Ando (ATR)
    Japan’s Asa Ando, 24, who achieved a personal best 10th in this past weekend’s women's slalom, hopes that athletes at Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022 will have the opportunity to inspire the world.

    “Now the whole world is going…so it is really a difficult time,” Ando said. “Athletes are amazing performers and if the Olympic Games will be possible, we can give a lot of people big power and inspiration.”

    The Cortina world championships proceeded without major incident, with a four-bubble system implemented to limit interaction between athletes and teams, staff, officials, and media. Nearly 22,000 COVID tests were administered. Some 600 ski racers representing 71 countries competed on Cortina’s sunny slopes

    Many athletes from non-traditional skiing nations have Olympic dreams to fulfill.

    India's Arif Mohd Khan after the Cortina giant slalom (ATR)
    Arif Mohd Khan, a 30-year-old skier who grew up in the mountains of Indian Kashmir, hopes to qualify for his first Olympic Games in Beijing. He believes his best chance is in slalom, and certainly not the faster and more dangerous speed events.

    “I don’t care about that,” Khan said of racing downhill and super-G.“I really love to watch downhills and super-Gs because they’re the superhuman people. I tried a couple of races but it was not my cup of tea.”

    Hubertus von Hohenlohe, the flamboyant 62-year-old Mexican prince, who resides in Cortina, has already participated at six Olympic Winter Games and is aiming for one more.

    “I will try to qualify and see what happens,” said von Hohenlohe, whose family reigned over a principality in modern-day Germany until the 19th century. “I don’t think they will find the magic pill for keeping the youth going (until Milan-Cortina 2026).

    “I’m like these football players that are so old that they only get a contract for one year. I make a contract with my body just for the next year and then I’ll take it from there.”

    Greek ski racer Ioannis Antoniou, who embraced being the first torchbearer for Sochi 2014, proudly running with the Olympic flame in Ancient Olympia, eyes qualifying for his second Winter Olympics in Beijing 2022.

    “I’m pushing myself – I really want to succeed in Europa Cups in slalom, because that’s my discipline, and hopefully I’m going to secure a spot for the World Cups and then maybe I’ll open one more spot for me in the Olympics,” Antoniou said. “A.J. (Ginnis) are I are both going to have to ski really fast for Greece to have two of us there.”

    Homepage photo: Cortina 2021/Pentaphoto

    Written and reported by Brian Pinelli in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy

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