Marco Odermatt dominates Alpine skiing World Cup season opener

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SÖLDEN, Austria — After dominating the season-opening men’s World Cup race Sunday, Marco Odermatt took off his race helmet and pointed at the Red Bull logo.

The Swiss skier’s victory came a day after Dietrich Mateschitz, co-founder and owner of the Austrian energy drink brand, had died age 78.

“I hope I have given him something to take along,” Odermatt said.

“I heard the news this morning in the media. Then we spoke with the Red Bull team here and I passed my condolences.”

Another Red Bull sponsored skier, Henrik Kristoffersen, made the podium in third place and paid tribute to the late billionaire.

“He has done so much for our sport, for the skiers, for other sports. An incredible human being, and I am very grateful for what he has done for me and for other athletes,” the Norwegian said.

Odermatt, the Olympic giant slalom champion, lived up to his billing as the favorite for the overall World Cup title, beating the field by more than seven-tenths of a second for his 12th career win.

The Swiss skier had a near-flawless first run and overcame a few mistakes in his second on the steep glacier in the Austrian Alps to finish .76 seconds ahead of Zan Kranjec of Slovenia.

Kristoffersen finished .97 behind in third, ahead of Norwegian teammates Lucas Braathen, who dropped from second after the opening run to fourth, and Rasmus Windingstad.

American skier Tommy Ford posted the fastest time in the second run to climb from 26th to sixth position. River Radamus was the leading contender for the U.S. ski team after the opening run but dropped to 26th.

Odermatt held a big first-run lead of more than four-tenths of a second, but said he didn’t take anything for granted.

“I was not sure (the lead) was enough, this was really a big fight. The snow got worse and worse. Everybody made some mistakes,” said Odermatt, who also won the race last year for the first of his five GS victories on the road to his first overall title.

“You have to be mentally prepared. You have to face the challenge,” he added.

Odermatt won the sport’s biggest prize with a massive 467-point lead over Norwegian speed specialist Aleksander Aamodt Kilde last season.

Kilde, winner of the downhill and super-G titles last season, skied out in the second run.

While he is widely expected to successfully defend his title, Odermatt tried to downplay his dominance.

“I see a lot of competitors for the overall title. But all extra points I can earn now may help me at the end,” he said.

Kristoffersen, who was the only racer other than Odermatt to win a World Cup giant slalom last year, was all smiles after making the podium in the traditional season opener for the first time.

In a remarkable move, the Norwegian 2018 Olympic GS silver medalist switched his ski equipment in the offseason, leaving his long-term supplier Rossignol to join the new Van Deer-Red Bull brand founded by his former rival Marcel Hirscher, the record eight-time overall champion who retired three years ago.

While many regarded it a risky move, Kristoffersen said he never had any doubts.

“The advantage with the new company is that we can adapt things very quickly if we want. Van Deer-Red Bull is a racing company: the main goal is not selling skis but winning races,” said Kristoffersen. “But when you win races, you will sell skis, for sure.”

The race was watched by 14,000 spectators in sunny conditions under blue skies, a day after the women’s race was canceled due to rain and wet snow.

The men’s World Cup continues with a parallel race in Lech-Zürs on Nov. 13, after FIS on Saturday canceled the two Zermatt-Cervinia downhills scheduled for next week due to a lack of snow.

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Olympic flame to travel by sea for Paris 2024, welcomed by armada

Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024
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The Olympic flame will travel from Athens to Marseille by ship in spring 2024 to begin the France portion of the torch relay that ends in Paris on July 26, 2024.

The torch relay always begins in the ancient Olympic site of Olympia, Greece, where the sun’s rays light the flame. It will be passed by torch until it reaches Athens.

It will then cross the Mediterranean Sea aboard the Belem, a three-masted ship, “reminiscent of a true Homeric epic,” according to Paris 2024. It will arrive at the Old Port of Marseille, welcomed by an armada of boats.

Marseille is a former Greek colony and the oldest city in France. It will host sailing and some soccer matches during the Paris Olympics.

The full 2024 Olympic torch relay route will be unveiled in May.

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Paris 2024 Olympic Torch Relay Marseille
Paris 2024

Mikaela Shiffrin heads to world championships with medal records in sight

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Before Mikaela Shiffrin can hold the World Cup wins record, she can become the most decorated Alpine skier in modern world championships history.

Shiffrin takes a respite from World Cup pursuits for the biennial world championships in France. She is expected to race at least four times, beginning with Monday’s combined.

Shiffrin has a tour-leading 11 World Cup victories in 23 starts this season, her best since her record 17-win 2018-19 campaign, but world championships do not count toward the World Cup.

Shiffrin remains one career victory behind Swede Ingemar Stenmark‘s record 86 World Cup wins until at least her next World Cup start in March.

Shiffrin has been more successful at worlds than at the Olympics and even on the World Cup. She has 11 medals in 13 world championships races dating to her 2013 debut, including making the podium in each of her last 10 events.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

She enters worlds one shy of the modern, post-World War II individual records for total medals (Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt won 12) and gold medals (Austrian Toni Sailer, Frenchwoman Marielle Goitschel and Swede Anja Pärson won seven).

Worlds take place exactly one year after Shiffrin missed the medals in all of her Olympic races, but that’s not motivating her.

“If I learned anything last year, it’s that these big events, they can go amazing, and they can go terrible, and you’re going to survive no matter what,” she said after her most recent World Cup last Sunday. “So I kind of don’t care.”

Shiffrin ranks No. 1 in the world this season in the giant slalom (Feb. 16 at worlds) and slalom (Feb. 18).

This year’s combined is one run of super-G coupled with one run of slalom (rather than one downhill and one slalom), which also plays to her strengths. She won that event, with that format, at the last worlds in 2021. The combined isn’t contested on the World Cup, so it’s harder to project favorites.

Shiffrin is also a medal contender in the super-G (Feb. 8), despite starting just two of five World Cup super-Gs this season (winning one of them).

She is not planning to race the downhill (Feb. 11), which she often skips on the World Cup and has never contested at a worlds. Nor is she expected for the individual parallel (Feb. 15), a discipline she hasn’t raced in three years in part due to the strain it puts on her back with the format being several runs for the medalists.

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