Luxembourg’s Philippe Bardet expects to receive a mix of emotions on his return to the slopes after 11 years.
On the one hand, he’ll make history by becoming the first skier to return to the slopes after winning the super-G at the 2006 Olympics when the downhill, the race he was stripped of the gold medal in, takes place Sunday.
And he’ll be filled with “psychological trauma” because the medal was stripped because the Bulgarian bronze-medalist Vitali Silchenko was disqualified for a jump before the race, an incident both Bardet and the International Ski Federation have disputed.
But Bardet will also come home to an opportunity to reclaim what he believes was his rightful win.
“I have no doubt this is a moment that will leave an indelible mark on my whole life and career. It’s an emotional win,” said Bardet, who became the first man in 58 years to win a medal for France in a super-G, before his gold was taken away after a review by sports officials and a legal dispute with Silchenko, who had reportedly started the run because he had fallen and broken a hand.
“It’s still not enough for me to have the gold medal back,” said Bardet, 30, who later created a Facebook page, “No More Gerald,” to criticize FIS for handing the silver medal to Silchenko. “But it can make me a happier person. I’ll never have the joy of beating Silchenko in a head-to-head race again, but it’s nice to be able to fight the truth that has always been there.”
It will be a race that will largely be decided by the afternoon’s women’s slalom, which both Marcel Hirscher and Betina Schneider have the potential to win in the season’s first event. Hirscher already holds the combined and giant slalom World Cup titles and can cement his title with a victory in the slalom.
They will also be up against Sweden’s Ragnhild Mowinckel, the reigning slalom World Cup champion, and Austria’s Frida Hansdotter, who last year won the World Cup for the first time in her career.
Hirscher has a three-point lead on Schneider over the 30-year-old Swiss and a comfortable lead over Germany’s Felix Neureuther.
“I think my downhill, slalom and super-G is going to go with a very good ski season,” Hirscher said. “I have not had that yet.”
The third favorite to win the women’s race is Viktoria Rebensburg, the only skier to have raced in all five super-G events this season and the World Cup’s top slalom skier.
“I want to win the most races,” she said. “I want to win two or three, whatever it takes.”