What to know about this week's big alpine skiing events
Shiffrin can break women's record; men take on the scariest course
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We're entering the dead of winter, but alpine skiing comes alive over the next few days with a bunch of important races. Here's what to look for:
Mikaela Shiffrin's record quest continues
After taking last weekend off, Shiffrin resumes her push to take sole possession of the all-time women's World Cup wins record in northern Italy. The 27-year-old American has topped the podium eight times already this season to move into a tie with the retired Lindsey Vonn at 82 career victories. Shiffrin will compete in downhills Friday and Saturday and a super-G on Sunday in Cortina d'Ampezzo, the 2026 Winter Olympics venue.
These "speed" disciplines aren't Shiffrin's best — 83 per cent of her wins have come in the more technical slalom and giant slalom. But she's no slouch in ski racing's fastest events. Shiffrin won gold in the super-G at the 2019 world championships and bronze two years later. She captured the super-G World Cup season title in 2018-19, when she won at Cortina, and has a total of eight career wins in the super-G and downhill.
Friday's downhill kicks off a hectic stretch for Shiffrin that will see the World Cup overall leader compete seven times in 10 days. After the three Cortina races, she'll head to a different Italian venue for giant slaloms on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then it's off to the Czech Republic for a pair of slaloms (her specialty) next weekend before the world championships in France. If and when Shiffrin overtakes Vonn, she'll set her sights on Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark's any-person record of 86 World Cup wins.
Canada's best skier in the women's speed events is veteran Marie-Michèle Gagnon, ranked 20th in the super-G and 31st in the downhill standings this season. Valérie Grenier, who upset Shiffrin to win a giant slalom earlier this month, will probably only race the super-G. She hasn't been a serious contender in the speed events since a devastating downhill crash in 2019.
All three women's races are being live-streamed on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. Watch the downhills Friday at 4:15 a.m. ET and Saturday at 4 a.m. ET, and the super-G Sunday at 5:30 a.m. ET.
Skiing's scariest race is back
The monstrous men's downhill on the Hahnenkamm mountain in Kitzbuehel, Austria has caused several near-death experiences, including Canadian Brian Stemmle's infamous 1989 crash and Todd Brooker's terrifying tumble in '87. The Hahnenkamm's devious Streif course isn't the longest or the fastest on the World Cup circuit — that would be the lung-busting Lauberhorn downhill in Wengen, Switzerland, held last weekend. But the Streif stresses the world's best ski racers like no other with its cruel combination of steepness, twists and turns and long jumps (racers can be up in the air for as much as 60 metres). The terrain is also unusually rough, so it's easy to catch a ski and go head-over-heels at horrifying speeds.
But the rewards for victory are big. Tens of thousands of spectators attend the Hahnenkamm downhill and millions in Europe watch it live on television. Champions earn the respect of not just the fans but also their peers. The legendary Crazy Canucks of the 1980s made their bones by winning it four consecutive years. This is, in short, the most coveted title in the sport.
Canada's top contender is Jack Crawford. A 2022 Olympic bronze medallist in the combined event and fourth-place finisher in the downhill, Crawford ranks fourth in the World Cup downhill standings after reaching the podium twice last month. The 25-year-old is still looking for his first World Cup win.
The Streif dishes out a double dose of fear this year as it hosts back-to-back men's downhills on Friday and Saturday. Watch them both live at 5:30 a.m. ET on CBCSports.ca, the CBC Sports app and CBC Gem. Those platforms will also carry Sunday's slalom live at 4:30 a.m. ET.
Learn more about what makes the Hahnenkamm downhill so scary by reading this first-person account by Canadian former ski racer Manny Osborne-Paradis and watching this video on the "beautiful chaos" of Kitzbuehel.
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