Can a speed racer really win the World Cup overall title?
SOELDEN, Austria (AP) Technical events, 23. Speed races, 19.
The men’s World Cup calendar has sparked a debate about fairness. Do downhill and super-G racers have an equal chance to win the overall title when slalom and giant slalom specialists are given four more opportunities to score points?
Hannes Reichelt doesn’t think so.
The super-G world champion has slammed the inequality in the calendar, saying it leaves speed specialists without a realistic chance.
”If you win both speed globes but are not good enough in the giant slalom, you have no chance,” Reichelt said in a recent interview. ”On the other hand, if you win slalom and GS, you’re the overall champion automatically. That’s unfair.”
A member of governing body FIS’ athletes committee, Reichelt said an overall champion should be among the best in at least three disciplines.
But though his Austrian teammate Marcel Hirscher has won four titles in a row while competing almost exclusively in slalom and GS, opinions are divided.
Primarily, the international ski federation doesn’t see a problem here.
”From our view there is a good balance between speed and tech events,” men’s race director Markus Waldner said Friday, two days before the season starts with a giant slalom on the Rettenbach glacier.
Waldner acknowledged the calendar has been ”slightly overloaded with more slaloms” but stressed ”it’s absolutely possible for the speed guys to go for the overall.”
Reichelt’s criticism, however, is shared by Aksel Lind Svindal, a two-time former champion. The Norwegian is a speed specialist but has also scored heavily in GS.
”There should be the same amount of races. That would be the most fair,” Svindal said. ”If you give away a lot more points in technical event than in speed events, than that is not fair.”
However, Svindal added that for him it’s ”a mathematical question.”
”Marcel is so good. That he has won four in a row is not an argument that it’s not fair,” the Norwegian said.
Svindal finished runner-up to the Austrian two years ago. He recalled how he skied out of his skin in super-G, but was still outscored by the Austrian.
”The worst place I had in super-G two years ago was second, which was historical,” Svindal said. ”But that didn’t really help because Marcel was top three in every slalom. I did something that hadn’t been done since Hermann Maier but he did something that even (Alberto) Tomba hadn’t done.”
Another challenger of Hirscher’s, Kjetil Jansrud, agreed with his Norwegian teammate.
Jansrud led the overall standings last season after winning four of the first six speed events but still ended up 160 points short of Hirscher.
”In a perfect world we would have the same amount of all disciplines. It would be an even fight for the overall,” Jansrud said.
The Olympic super-G champion blamed only himself for losing his lead last year ("I could have won it if I had a very good giant slalom season”) but still believed the current system could do with a little tweak.
A new parallel giant slalom in Alta Badia in December and a city event in Stockholm in February are no ordinary slalom or GS race but still count toward the overall standings.
”We should stick by the classic disciplines,” Jansrud said, calling the new events ”important for the interest in the sport” but not comparable to a usual World Cup race.
”It’s tough if you lose the overall because some guy grabbed the 100 points in a parallel slalom while you won Wengen and Kitzbuehel.”