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The new wave of French skiing

Coupe du monde de skiThis article is in English. Click here to read it in French.

During the recent World Ski Championships in Schladming, Austria, the French alpine ski team managed to take out four medals, two of them being gold. 

The French alpine ski team wasn’t considered much of a threat going into the world championship in Schladming, Austria. In fact, apart from Tessa Worley on the women’s team, or Alexis Pinturault on the men’s side, the majority of the tricoloured downhill and slalom competitors were relative unknowns.

A generation of French experience

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During the last world championship in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany, the Blues no longer had hidden weapons like they had with Jean-Baptiste Grange, Julien Lizeroux and Marie Marchand-Arvier in 2009. These athletes brought a new dynamic and growing interest in the sport among the French. These playmakers of two elite level seasons in 2009 and 2010 subsequently fell from the ranks following injuries.

This new generation took over without actually having found a leader. Nevertheless, Marion Rolland, David Poisson and Gauthier de Tessiers, competing since the 00’s, have achieved the challenges of their lives. Marion Rolland, the butt of many a joke after her injury from a fall during the Vancouver Olympics, has taken her revenge by winning the women’s downhill. David Poisson and Gauthier de Tessiers have achieved in their Austrian campaigns by winning bronze in the downhill and silver in the Super-G, respectively.

Furthermore, David Poisson has become the first French medallist in the men’s downhill since Luc Alphand in 1996. Alphand was one of the greatest French champions of alpine ski, winner of 5 crystal globes, 12 Skiing World Cup trials and also a Paris-Dakar rally in 2006.

French hopefuls are all grown up

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Tessa Worley and Alexis Pinturault, the two best bets as medal hopefuls on the French team, surpassed all expectations of supporters. Worley, the 23 year old skier from Grand-Bornand, has brought home her second world champion title following the team title in 2011. Already victorious in the World Cup trials, Worley, born in Annemasse to an Australian father and French mother, became the world champion in giant slalom.

Alexis Pinturault, meanwhile, finished sixth in the downhill, taken out by Austrian Marcel Hirscher. Both French hopefuls of 23 and 22 years were at the height of the event. They carried the hopes of the French team, which finished third in the World Championship.

Sochi Goal for the French Team

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The favourable result of this campaign, one year out from the Winter Olympics, is encouraging for the French team. However, the hopes rest squarely on the shoulders of the four medallists, and their lack of experience on the podium at this level leaves everyone in wonder about their chances at taking out an Olympic medal at the Sochi Olympics in Russia.

But Tessa Worley or Alexis Pinturault will certainly be out in front next year. Jean-Baptiste Grange, modern French ski legend could also be competing at this same event. The slalom athlete from Valloire is keeping the Olympics in his sights, despite having had two very difficult seasons due to repeated injuries and operations. Other French skiers will have to work hard to earn a place on the French team and won’t be making the trip for nothing. In saying that, Adrien Théaux, Thomas Fanara, Marie Marchand-Arvier and Sandrine Aubert, all have the potential to reach the podium.

Who do you think will climb the podium steps at Sochi?

Image credits:
1. Johan Clarey, by joménager on Flickr.
2. Bansko 2011 FIS Ski World Cup – Jean-Baptiste GRANGE, by Plamen Velev on Flickr. 

3. Tessa Worley, by Christian Jansky on Wikipedia. 
4. Le logo numérique de 2014 Jeux Olympiques d’hiver à Sotchi, by maiak.info on Flickr.


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