VIDEO: How to save those few precious seconds at the start
In a week, the top skiers will set off for Aspen, in the United States, for the finals of the World Cup. The very last meeting of the season for the speed merchants and the last chance for those still looking for success. To succeed, though, the Frenchman Adrien Théaux will have optimize his start and poling to gather the maximum number of seconds.
Skiing is all about seconds. Often, the differences are miniscule. This is self-evident. It is even truer at some of the World Cup runs, such as Val Gardena and Beaver Creek. The worst thing for a skier is a start on a flat section. So how do you build up the speed that you need if there's no slope? It is a talent, of course, just like the carving that is so dear to American Ted Ligety. And it is particularly useful in the speed disciplines of downhill and Super-G.
A fast start, of course, is important in the slalom and giant slalom too – a few seconds' lead is always useful – but speed plays a minor part in those contests. A poor start in the giant slalom might cost you have half a second, at most. At the very most. In the downhill, it's twice that. At the very least. While a good start is never any guarantee of victory, it nevertheless maximises your chances of a good result.
At the last World Cup meeting in St Moritz, Nastasia Noens managed the best start in the second run, gaining 0''30 over the majority of the other competitors. The Frenchwoman gave it everything she had, with some powerful poling and ski skating until she arrived at the first gate. But the slalom is a technical discipline and, in the end, she only recorded the 10th best time in that run… It is a completely different matter though in the speed disciplines.
Not fully at ease on the flat, pure glide sections, Adrien Théaux will have to fight his natural inclinations on this type of start if he's to limit the damage and have any hope of mounting the podium. The Frenchman might well be one of the world's best in downhill (5th in the World Cup in 2017) and Super-G (3rd in the World Cup 2015), and an artist on the difficult slope sections, but there is often no coming back from a poor start . Because if you're 0''50 or more down at the 1st stage, you can more or less forget about winning.
It's no coincidence that the Norwegians, with their Herculean efforts during the glide start, tend to dominate the speed events, with eight of the last ten world speed titles (5 Super-Gs, 3 downhills). Aksel-Lund Svindal is thought by many to be the best at the flat start. Two world titles in downhill and four in Super-G: the figures speak for themselves.
How do you optimize your start to gain precious seconds? That's what you'll find out in the video below. And the headline act is the Norwegian star, Aksel Lund Svindal.
Longines' Live Alpine Data technology, which is encapsulated in a unit mounted on the skier's boot, includes radar and movement sensors and was officially unveiled at Sölden at the start of the season. It was launched at the St. Moritz World Championships 2017, where Longines was both a partner and the official timekeeper.