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Michelle Gisin - Fixin' for a Rampage!

For me, an impressionable American, Michelle Gisin is a classic WC ski racer: composed yet loquacious, optimistic, dogged; from a skiing family, with two older WC siblings; recovered from knee injury; Swiss. She and Ragnhild Mowinckel strike me as especially cheerful determined spirits. My initial (2021) take on Michelle was that she perhaps relied too much upon talent, wasn’t a real fighter. I hadn’t yet recognized the level bedrock successful WC athletes unearth over years of on-slope practice and gymnastic exertion; weathering advice, commands, and badgering from coaches, friends/relatives, media, interlopers. Failure. Upon this foundation rests private, close self-understanding. I figure this must be, or even the most stubborn would turn psychotic. Michelle may be sanguine but running a difficult 33-start season proves her tenacity.

Gisin is a superb 4-discipline athlete, winning Olympic Alpine Combined gold in 2018 and 2022, SG bronze in 2022; AC medals at 2017 and 2019 Worlds. Ranked 8th WAWC Overall in 2020 and 3d in 2021, she was entering the top echelon. Poised for a really big 2022 season. I was certain she’d be Shiffrin’s primary challenger after Gut-Behrami and Brignone left the scene; once Bassino fully ramped up, Michelle and Marta would wrangle for second place Overall, along with Petra if she ran a Speed discipline to complement Tech. Eager people ready if Mikaela faltered.

Michelle got mono that summer. 2021-22 proceeded up/down but she strengthened and closed strongly, taking 5 podiums and 5th Overall, with top-10s in tech; 12th/16th SG and DH. Not bad for enduring an illness that scotched second half of her pre-season training. Surely she’d contest Overall podium in 2023.

In June 2022 she switched to Salomon skis and boots. I didn’t think much about it, but wondered why at age 29, with increasing success on Rossignol, she’d do this. As the 2023 campaign progressed, I really wondered. By late January it was clear the season was a write-off points-wise. (I learned this wasn’t technically true. Her rankings nose-dived except for SG 9th; by finishing the season with over 500 points she, as I understand it, ensured top-30 bibs in all disciplines for next season.) I’d think that a Pyrrhic victory but if a full 4-discipline schedule adjusting to new gear followed by productive summer training makes her faster than ever next November, it was worth it. Also, a toe injury required a larger boot for much of the season, which must be a PITA. So with sound piggies and many vertical kilometers of practice, 2024 should be a return to form. I think it will be—I’ll pick her for 4th/5th Overall, with a Discipline podium.

Furthermore, I reckon Michelle will be Overall 3d in 2025 and 50/50 for 2nd for 2026 if she runs full 3-discipline schedules, which history says she will. Another 30+ start campaign may be in her sights; two or three more, through 2026, I doubt. But I sense she’s full-bore 3 events over the next three years.

To speculate re recent WC specifics. 2023 season 13th Overall; SL 18th; GS 28th; SG 9th; DH 19th. 2022 season 5th Overall; SL 7th; GS 8th; SG 12th; DH 16th. 2021 season 3d Overall; SL 4th; GS 4th; SG 13th; DH 15th. Tech is her strong suit—except for this past year. 2023: SL 2xT10, 8th best finish. GS 1xT20=12th best finish. SG 3xT10, 4th best finish. DH 3xT10=2x8th best finishes. Weird. Her strongest was SG, which AFAICT is the most physically demanding discipline, requiring high-speed technical turns under high torque and G-force load. Now, if her toe/boot issue persisted during the season—healing, but slowly given the unrelenting race schedule—then for whatever reason SG yielded the best results. Why? I’d guess because between bum toe and new equipment, Michelle couldn’t consistently nail SL/GS’s precise quick turns. Her SG finishes were all T20 except for a 32nd and a DNF, while T20s were rare in GS, and about half of SL and DH. Point being, I suspect like other racers she may shift toward Speed during her later years.

I imagine Michelle intends to compete at least through 2026. (Salomon certainly expects that, I bet.) 2023-24 is a straight WC schedule: 41 races in 22 weekend meets, 28 October to 24 March. If new things sort out over the summer and Michelle's in 3-discipline top gear by January, she'll have a glorious three-year stretch and retire as one of Switzerland’s top ski racers. She won’t do it with wins, having one so far, though I bet she scores at least 8 more victories and three EOS discipline podiums, plus 2xEOS 3d Overall over next three seasons. So her start numbers across disciplines (231 so far), strong EOS WC placements (3d; 3xT10 to date), and Olympic/Worlds medals will put her in elite company.

I’d like your opinion. As an outsider to ski racing, the toll equipment change can take upon performance startled me. It really drove home how infinitesimal adjustments, requiring so much on-snow time, are needed to dial in a set-up. Not surprising since we’re dealing in hundreds of a second, but it’s freakin' exacting. Are ski brands so dramatically different that it's worth “sacrificing” a year in your prime hoping for a small but potentially decisive improvement? What does Salomon have that Rossi doesn’t? Factory resources and equipment tech support is probably in play. Do top ski techs work freelance/by contract for athletes/teams, or are they on salary with the manufacturers? I realize money must be a (significant) part of it. Salomon has snagged big names, including Alice Robinson. Alice is 20, and flashed amazing GS chops in 2021. As she/her team sorts and develops her abilities, she may well become a Speed and GS big player. No doubt the brand sees her as a sure-shot long term investment. Same with Marta Bassino, whom I and others think is bound for greatness. Michelle, I’m sure, got a sweet contract to run new boards and torture her feet in a fresh way. So Salomon’s got three primo stars 20, 27, and 29.


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