From our sofa, this Sunday, December 10th, it seemed playable. No wind, no heavy snowfall. A blank day, yes, certainly. But the face of Bellevarde, traced and illuminated by the white light of the street lamps, seemed ready to offer itself to the skis of the best slalom skiers in the world. Except that on Saturday night, around 19 p.m., the snow turned to rain. And even worse, the wind blew all night on this fragile snowpack. A dangerous combo that spelled the end of the game.
The FIS announced this Sunday at 8:20 a.m. that the Val-d'Isère slalom, whose first and second runs were scheduled for 10 a.m. and 13 p.m., would not take place due to weather conditions. The surface, which was not compact enough, made the race dangerous and did not allow the athletes to start in fair conditions. This is the seventh race to be cancelled in the men's race out of the nine events at the start of the season.
🚨🎥 Val d'Isère slalom cancelled / Ingrid Jacquemod's explanations: "We quickly realized that it would be complicated..." pic.twitter.com/syWZp5Yb7U
— Ski Chrono (@Ski_Chrono) December 10, 2023
"I'm very disappointed, and we didn't expect it," Clément Noël told La Chaîne L'Équipe. The weather isn't that bad, there's a bit of wind... It's that the snow conditions shouldn't be enough to launch everyone safely. I'm disappointed and a little confused. »
"They take athletes' safety very seriously"
The 2022 Olympic slalom champion was waiting for explanations from his coaches who were on the track this morning. None of the athletes went to the face of Bellevarde to feel the conditions at dawn. Except one: Henrik Kristoffersen.
The Norwegian, known for not mincing his words, was critical of Eurosport: "I think it was not a good decision to send the machines out on track this morning," he said. " Now there's nothing I can do about it. The world champion from Courchevel, last February, admits to feeling "a strange feeling". "We have between 4 and 10 coaches working on the track (...) I have a few questions, I think we could have done better, we're going to have to think about all that. »
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The slalom skiers thought they were protected from the series of cancellations affecting alpine skiing at the start of the season. "We're the safest discipline, we're normally thrown around in terrible conditions," says Clément Noël.
"There were too many sections where it was sugar"
Conditions that led to an ankle injury for his comrade Victor Muffat-Jeandet last year. The slalom skier of the France team had fallen during the slalom in Zagreb. The race, stopped in the middle of the race, should never have taken place, the French side complained. For Muffat-Jeandet, the cancellation is a good thing. "I think it's good," said the Savoyard skier. For me, with one of the last bibs, it would have been very complicated. I feel like this year they're taking a lot of consideration into the safety of the athletes, I feel like they've learned from their mistakes. »
"The wind destroyed the base of the track," said FIS race director Marcus Waldner, who had to make a decision this morning. It was too slippery to go to work without the machines, so we sent them out. And there were too many sections where it was unskiable, it was sugar. He admits to living in a very strange situation, which he has never encountered before in his career.
The slalom skiers have already expressed their wish to put the race back on the calendar. Because every cancellation is one less opportunity to score points. "But no, we're not going to do anything," said Marcus Waldner before delving into the conundrum of a calendar saturated with events, forcing athletes to skip the races. There is not a free weekend to replace a cancellation that is nevertheless inevitable. On the women's side, it's the same fight. The Super-G in St Moritz (Switzerland), cancelled on Sunday morning, will probably not be able to take place elsewhere.