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Marta Bassino -- A Star's Converging Points.

Marta Bassino is one of the ten best WAWC racers, regardless of how any other competitor’s performance is parsed or categorized. This is a conservative ranking—she’ll finish top-4 in GS and in SG for the next 3 or 4 seasons, including at least one GS globe; 2 SG podiums may include a globe as well. Improving/solidifying SG and cranking up GS excellence are her top orders. If Marta guns for Overall—which I imagine every WAWC fan hopes she does—then top-10 DH EOS is essential. (Not sure why SL isn’t her bag; need to look into it.)

I got the predictions over with because, AFAICT, Marta’s being promoted as a star media/commercial entity beyond the energy bar, pasta, superior water, or even luxury watch and chic sportswear endorsement deals successful athletes often enjoy. There’s good reason for this: Bassino’s WAWC potential right now exceeds Shiffrin’s. You can’t go higher than the top. Mikaela is resetting almost every ski racing standard. In the big picture, she has no one to beat; everyone else is and will be judged against her stats and style. Marta is primed to enter Mikaela’s slipstream.

So Bassino’s evolution as an elite competitor with increasing public/commercial exposure interests me. WAWC isn’t a business per se, but generating business is important for the sport’s vitality and growth. Marta’s a key asset because her superb racing talent and competitive drive are well-proven; she’s a warm personality, friendly yet measured in public, with a thoughtful speaking manner; Italian, she’ll soon head one of ski-racing’s most traditional and high-profile—and enthusiastic!—National teams. Lead the team in the public eye, that is—and where there’s attention, there’s commerce.

Before furthering this exploration, which some readers may consider grubby and distasteful, let’s look at the relevant WAWC picture.

Michelle Gisin and Mikaela Shiffrin are the only current top-notch 3/4-Discipline racers who I’m confident will contest the 2026 season. Gut-Behrami, Brignone, and Mowinckel may stick around if the Olympics compel them to; if Petra gets onto Speed and Ester onto GS, they’ll definitely be Overall players. Alice Robinson’s an intriguing work in progress who could run amok. Franzi Gritsch may be on the war path; I’d like to see Katy Liensberger take a crack at Speed. Study the recent WAWC rankings, and other folks will catch your eye.

A season-long GS & SG duel between Mikaela and Marta would be the cat’s Jack Wolfskin. Only Goggia vs Johnson in DH would excite me more; M vs M would cheer all people. And it’s gonna happen, though they’ll have company. Shiffrin plundered GS in 2023, taking the title by 270 points over Gut-Behrami. Just 56 total points, however, separated Lara from Marta, Petra, and then Fede in 5th. So there’s a scrum for 2nd. Petra’s a tough customer; Lara and Fede are always there.

Speed will be Marta’s biggest challenge to achieve EOS Overall podiums. Since 2020, her first strong WC season (5th Overall, best to date), her SG has been okay, with an early-season 15th and DNF likely costing her 2023 EOS 6th instead of 8th, as her final 4 SGs were 2x3d; 2x8th. Super G has hard-core pros; EOS 4th/5th may be best Marta can do in 2024 unless she flashes her 2023 World Champion golden chops at least twice.

Downhill…here’s the heart of the Overall matter. From 2016 to 2019 she ran 3 DHs per season (Cortina each year), and except for a 10th, didn’t crack top-30 until 2019, with a 20th as best finish. Then in 2020 she had 4xT10 from 5 starts, including a 2nd, for EOS DH 11th. From 2022 DH was trimmed to focus upon GS and SG. That was wise. Overworking an athlete is bad. DH will probably ramp back up in 2025, after 2024 yields another GS podium.

Slalom is absent from Bassino’s 2023 program. It’s easy to see why: 15 random WC starts March 2016 to March 2022 yielded 1x18th, and 14 DNF/DNQ.

WC results for seasons 2021 through 2023. (Excluding SL and Team Parallel—very few.)

2023 Overall 8th. 21 starts – 10xGS 1st; 2x2nd; 2x3d; 3xT10; 11th; DNF; EOS 3d.

6xSG2x3d; 2xT10; 15th; DNF; EOS 8th. 5xDH 16th; 3xT30; 33d; EOS 32nd.

2022 Overall 10th. 20 starts – 9xGS 2x2nd; 2x3d; 2xT10; 3xDNF; EOS 5th.

8xSG 5xT10; 2xT20; 21st; EOS 10th. 3xDH 14th; 22nd; 40th; EOS 35th.

2021 Overall 6th. 20 starts – 8xGS4x1st; 3d; 2xT10; DNF; EOS 1st.

6xSG 2nd; 4xT10; DNF; EOS 6th. 7xDH 2xT20; 2xT30; 2xT40; DNF; EOS 29th.

Marta’s website (English) (Italian) is chock-full of sport and personal photos; full career bio; quotations; sponsors and professional associates. One of the better WAWC athlete sites I’ve seen.

Analyzing the commercial momentum building around her isn’t really up my alley, but a rudimentary search offered some telling info, I think. In 2017, when she was 21, Marta was named a Sky Sports Scholar. The program selects a dozen young athletes practicing a variety of sports for 3-year plans including “…financial aid, both a sporting and business executive mentor, media training, personal development and work experience.” (A division of Comcast, Sky Sports is the UK’s largest sports-oriented subscription television and streaming service. Accessible worldwide via VPN.) This sounds to me both noble and shrewd: helping young talent develop professional skills beyond their training regimen, while informally (or perhaps contractually?) associating them with a media giant. Marta was the second non-UK athlete selected, and is the only skier.

Marta seems to be a gentle soul at heart—fiercely competitive of course, though somewhat shy, not an instinctive spotlight kid. To me the most telling quotation in her SSS profile is, "The media training will be great for me. I would like to be more confident in front of the camera and being a Scholar can really help here. I don't like interviews because I'm a private person and don't really feel comfortable. When I started five years ago I always tried to say 'no' to interviews but now I understand it's needed.” A genuine and polished communication style is key for being successful beyond one’s professional accomplishments, regardless of the field. Marta sussed this—she’s setting up post-WAWC options (eg. race commentary, perhaps visual media journalism/interviews, corporate PR) as well as honing her present public/media persona.

Another sign of Bassino’s accelerating public/commercial speed is a half-hour profile sponsored by Salomon (her ski and boot brand). Covering her 2021 GS globe campaign, this “mini-doc” is visually sophisticated and dramatically effective. Impeccable production values; ski racing equipment’s mechanical precision is related as well as the intensive human component, particularly the ski techs’ meticulous craft. In my honest opinion, it vividly expresses Marta’s ambition, fierce work regimen, and inner challenges. I’m not sure how widely this video was distributed. Originally on “Salomon TV,” I imagine Salomon supported robust PR to get it seen elsewhere. It’s certainly an engaging and sympathetic publicity piece par excellence.

Publicity raises expectations. I’ll guess what FISI -- Federazione Italiana Sport Invernali / Italian Winter Sports Federation – expects/wishes of her: a GS or SG globe, or EOS podium in both, for the next four years, to secure her within the sport’s very elite. If she can wrangle enough DH points for EOS Overall podium by 2025 and snag a gold/silver medal at Cortina Olympics to go with same in the 2025 Worlds, she’ll be top of the heap in Italy and sharing the view elsewhere. (If Shiffrin retires after the 2026 season, which wouldn’t be surprising, then every 3-Discipline WAWC racer will show up for 2027, whatever it takes. Marta will be in as good a position as anyone to take the Overall. As always, fingers/toes/eyes crossed for no injuries to sully this fantastic era. Wishful thinking, but wishes occasionally come true.)

These are borderline ridiculous expectations in recent/current WAWC for anyone besides Vonn or Shiffrin. Bassino’s talent trajectory puts such goals within range. And if achieved, she’ll be a sports figurehead throughout Europe. Sponsorship and endorsement fees will increase (when existing contracts renew, I guess); new companies and products will want in on the action. Practicing a dangerous sport offering—by professional standards—modest prize money, it’s proper for WC athletes to cash in. Especially when a career can end so suddenly.

A WAWC athlete’s individual success strengthens her National team’s status as well. National WC associations’ finance, via government funds or private/business contribution, is a big topic, which I’ll take a stab at after this season. For now, we’ll acknowledge that WC stars help ski racing maintain its place within sport’s pecking order. Reliable sponsorship and advertising income ensures future seasons. (So long as there’s enough snow. Another topic we must address.)

European WC racers are prominent athletes because ski racing is embedded within most of their countries’ sporting cultures. (Duh) In Austria and Switzerland, I’d guess, Alpine ski racing is still top dog; Nordic competition is most prominent in Scandinavia, though Norway’s and Sweden’s Alpine traditions are strong and very successful. For the rest of western/central Europe, I’d guess football (soccer) is the big sport, also tennis and cycling. Formula 1 is huge, too. (I’m an F1 fan, especially of the 1.5 Liter era—1961 to 1965. I saw Jochen Rindt win his first Grand Prix, at Watkins Glen, 5 October 1969.) Alpine ski racing has a nebulous status within the U.S. Even with Shiffrin’s well-publicized triumphs it’s a modest niche market, widely considered privileged because it is.

Yep, I stray off-topic.

Now I’ll risk mea culpa—but WTH, I’m an outsider.

The Salomon video shows how male-dominated Marta’s professional life is. I saw not a single woman involved with her training. Indeed, except for her mom and Sofia Goggia, who offer brief commentary, no women appear in the video at all aside from random competitors during racing scenes. This isn’t surprising: WAWC coaching and bureaucratic personnel are overwhelmingly male in every country. I wonder, however, if gender imbalance around Marta signals something more.

The 2024 season Italian Elite/A roster I’ve seen -- -- has four members, with Marta at 27 the youngest by four years when the season begins. Elena Curtoni, 32, is probably two, three years max from retirement. She’s an excellent Speed competitor, with 2023 being by far her best in a 13-year WAWC career: 9th Overall; DH-4th; SG-4th. FWICT from her social media, Elena’s a savvy, very stylish, confident person. Looks comfortable anywhere in the world. Sofia Goggia (31 in November 2023) is a massive star for DH alone (her SG is only fine). Sofia’s a huge personality—she’ll talk to anyone, go anywhere, engage anything at any time. Extroverted, I guess. Federica Brignone, too, holds little back. A charismatic multi-Discipline maestra who models in outre fashion shoots, Fede is a powerful character. Turned 33 this July, she may hit the 2025 Worlds but I sense after another Overall T5—she has 4 including 2020’s Big Globe—she’ll hang ‘em up.

Here, I think, are Marta’s core personal and commercial strengths as she begins her prime WAWC years: She’s uniquely relatable, unpretentious, and balanced for someone committed to exploring/developing a remarkable bred-in-the-bone athletic talent under international scrutiny. She appeals to modest as well as to affluent demographics. She also attracts, I’ll venture, those sports fans who prefer a more reserved feminine image/ideal. People with more conservative tastes—patriarchal; sexist, if you wish. Marta would refrain from harassing such folks on her motorcycle, because she is kind and gracious.

I’d say right now Marta has what she needs. What she wants is hers to know.


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