Norwegian ski star Aksel Lund Svindal announced in the VIP tent in Kitzbühel in January 2019: "The races at the World Championship (February 2019) will be my last." He couldn't know it yet, but he gave the starting signal for a multitude of career ends in winter sports. The sports experienced a summer of resignations.
Because with Svindal other important stars of the snow disciplines ended their careers: Germany's strongest Laura Dahlmeier (two-time Olympic champion 2018, overall World Cup winner 2016/17), the Czech Republic's best Gabriela Koukalova (overall World Cup 2015/16) and Anastasia Kuzmina (three times Olympic champion) said goodbye to the biathlon.
The alpine skiers now compete without Germany's star Felix Neureuther and the outstanding Austrian Marcel Hirscher (among others eight overall World Cups) as well as the US American Lindsey Vonn (among others four overall World Cups). Among the ski jumpers, Olympic champion Carina Vogt and two-time Olympic champion Andreas Wellinger are both missing with a cruciate ligament rupture. ISPO.com shows who the new heroes of winter sports are now.
Mikaela Shiffrin is just 24 years old. It's easy to forget when you look at their successes: three overall World Cup victories, two Olympic gold medals, five World Championship titles. Almost all riders do not reach such a collection until the end of their career. However, Shiffrin is not a "normal" driver in the field either.
She has always been an exception, winning the most important races in the world even as a child. And that's what she continued with the adults: For the second time in a row in the 2018/19 season she earned the most prize money of all ski racers in the World Cup - and even beat Austria's top star Marcel Hirscher.
According to Forbes, Shiffrin has the potential to remain in the focus of the sports scene and industry for another decade, earning 30 to 50 million US dollars. Tiger Shaw, CEO of the US Ski and Snowboard Association said of Shiffrin 2017: "She is by far the most interesting person to have started winning races so early."
It is only in its home country, the USA, that it has by no means exhausted its potential. After the retirement of Lindsey Vonn, this market will soon belong to her exclusively. And with 60 individual World Cup victories, she is only 22 away from the strongest woman to date, Vonn. If she won't be injured, Shiffrin's goal is already achievable within the next two years.
- World Cup revenue 2018/19: 807.000 Euro
- 850,000 Instagram followers
- Sponsors: Adidas, Barilla, Visa, Longines, Bose, IKON Pass, Oakley
- Supplier: Atomic, Reusch, Leki
Slovak Petra Vlhova is likely to become Shiffrin's biggest competitor. Already last year she annoyed Shiffrin again and again, among other things when she snatched the world championship title in the giant slalom in Are in February 2019. Since then, Slovakia has been one of 20 countries that have won the World Ski Championships.
The 24-year-old now rides as safely and fast as the American in the technical disciplines. This season she now wants to venture downhill and super-G on the speed terrain.
"It's motivating to have opponents like her who raise the level," Shiffrin said in the previous season. Vlhova replied to the duel: "She pushed me to my limit. That's good for me, and good for her too, I think."
The professional cyclist Peter Sagan is still the most popular sportsman in Slovakia. But Petra Vlhova is catching up. She has an exceptional position in the ski association and successfully tours the world with her own team. Only with the social media followers she has to catch up on Shiffrin.
- World Cup revenue 2018/19: 390.000 Euro
- 116,000 Instagram followers
- Sponsors: Uniqa, Minerfin, Rauch, Audi, SKPay, Transpetrol, Kronreal, Tipos, Jasna, Kovolvha
- Supplier: Rossignol, Reusch, Adidas, Komperdell
In the social networks, Henrik Kristoffersen is always available for fun. The Norwegian shows there not only his skills, but also funny snapshots. And he could start in a great season. Now that in Marcel Hirscher and Felix Neureuther two big slalom and giant slalom competitors have resigned.
But he sees the resignations differently than one might think. He told the Austrian "Kronen-Zeitung": "It's a shame about Marcel, he'll be extremely missed in our sport." Kristoffersen also regrets the withdrawal for competition reasons: "One day I would have liked to have had the chance to dethrone Marcel as overall World Cup winner. But I had enough chances, it's my own fault."
Which brings us to the Norwegian's season goal. Now that Hirscher is gone, Kristoffersen is the big favourite for the overall victory. Only a few master such nimble turns as the 25-year-old, who has been at the forefront for years. In February 2019 he won World Championship gold in the giant slalom.
And after eight Hirscher overall World Cup victories, the big crystal ball would also remain in Austria, where Kristoffersen trains and lives. He doesn't even have his own apartment in Norway at the moment.
- World Cup revenues 2018/19: 213.000 Euro
- 174,000 Instagram followers
- Sponsors: DHL, Energiapura, Dunderverk, Husqvarna, Spm, Red Bull
- Supplier: Rossignol, Komperdell, Reusch, Sweet Protection
Frenchman Alexis Pinturault has won the discipline classification five times in the combination so far. This flexibility makes him a big earner in alpine ski racing every year. And after the resignation of Hirscher he could also push into this gap.
It's about time, because Pinturault, one of the last all-rounders of the Ski World Cup, has been in position for this for years. The 28-year-old has meanwhile won 23 World Cup races.
Like Kristoffersen, the two-time World Champion likes particularly fast swings - and so they are likely to fight for victory in the new season on the first World Cup weekend in Sölden at the end of October.
And another little parallel between the two: Pinturault also has Norwegian citizenship - because of his mother Hege. His father owns the Hotel Annapurna in France's Courchevel ski resort.
- World Cup revenues 2018/19: 221.000 Euro
- 160,000 Instagram followers
- Sponsors: Annapurna, Courchevel, Douanes, Richard Mille, Medilast, Vaudou Sport, Agency Zoom
- Supplier: Head, Leki, Colmar, Bollé, Reusch
For Johannes Thingnes Bö, the winter sports season has already begun with very good news: he will become a father in the course of the winter, probably in January. He announced this on his pages in the social networks.
Johannes Thingnes has always been considered the more talented of the two Bö brothers - in the pre-season he won the overall World Cup for the first time and was thus five places better than Tarjej. After the retirement of Ole Einar Björndalen in 2018, Bö was the Norwegians' great hope anyway. The country's largest bank, DNB, sponsors him - as does the Munich car brand BMW, which is very active in winter sports.
- 203,000 Instagram followers
- Sponsors: BMW, AF Groups, Carglass, Jensen, XL Bygg, YX Norge, DNB, Hedda Hytter, Meny
- Supplier: Fischer, Anschütz, Swix, Odlo, Joka
For seven years, the Frenchman won the big crystal ball, the overall World Cup. The Frenchman won the Olympic Games five times and the World Cup eleven times. But then, in the winter of 2018/19, he had problems to compete. Only twelfth place was booked after the season - far too little for the exceptional athlete.
But the fallen hero wants to attack again in 2019/20. In summer, he organized a biathlon and cross-country skiing event on scooters in his native Annecy - and 15,000 people watched. Fourcade won. This shows the radiance of the big earner among the biathletes. For sponsors, he is the most attractive athlete in his sport. He is expected to collect more than one million euros annually.
He can already look back on a unique career. With a total of 72 World Cup victories, he is second in the eternal list of the best behind the Norwegian Ole Einar Björndalen (94).
And Fourcade is already waving new tasks afterwards: The head of the Organising Committee of the 2024 Paris Summer Olympic Games. Ex-Canute Tony Estanguet, has appointed Fourcade as President of the OC Athletes Commission.
- 403,000 Instagram followers
- Sponsors: Somfy, BMW, Entremont, MGEN, Kinetixx, Les Petites Pierres, Conseil General, Entremont
- Supplier: Rossignol, Adidas, Julbo
She has long been the most successful biathlete at Instagram, and last season she took this step in the World Cup as well: Dorothea Wierer is overall World Cup winner 2018/19. Especially because she is now also strong in cross-country skiing. Shooting has always been easy for Wierer in this two-discipline sport.
In the mass start she also won her first World Champion title in March 2019, before that she had already won two silver and three bronze medals. In addition there are two bronze medals in the Mixed Relay at Olympics 2014 and 2018.
The Italian is particularly popular as an advertising figure. After her overall World Cup victory in the summer, she now has other well-known sponsors such as Red Bull and Joka. And there could be more to the portfolio, the South Tyrolean media are speculating at least about potential interest.
After her wedding in 2016 Wierer auctioned her dress for the benefit of the earthquake victims in Nepal. She had already had an offer from the Russian Playboy, but rejected it and justified it with the photo modelling on the computer: "I don't want to be edited".
- 385,000 Instagram followers
- Sponsors: Red Bull, Audi, APT Livigno, Rizzoli Cucine, Falconeri, Vichy, Marlene, Head & Shoulders, Tissot, Rawbike, Pirelli
- Equipment suppliers: Oneway Nordic, Anschütz, Rossignol, Oakley, Sportful, Adidas, Joka
Besides Wierer's compatriot Lisa Vittozzi, Denise Herrmann could also run in front from a German point of view after Laura Dahlmeier's career end. Whereby: As a former cross-country skier, she will run in front anyway. If she gets the shooting under control to some extent, then it should work out with the World Cup victories this season.
She already starts the season with a tailwind: From the 2019 Biathlon World Championships in Östersund she came back with a complete set of medals, and gold was awarded in the pursuit for the Saxon-born girl, who now lives in Upper Bavaria.
The fact that everything went well in Östersund also gives the 30-year-old hope for the 2019/20 season, the highlight of which will be the World Championships in Antholz. In September 2019 she already won the German sprint championship and made a second place in the pursuit on ski scooters. So she's already in shape once again.
- 57,000 Instagram followers
- Sponsors: Viessmann, E-Infra, Nudossi, Bioteaque, Zirbenherz, SRB, Kuse
- Supplier: Fischer, Adidas, Swix, Roeckl, Anschütz, Joka
Ryoyu Kobayashi was there with one jump. And he didn't leave either. The Japanese won the Four Hills Tournament, the Raw Air Competition and the overall World Cup in 2019. He was the outstanding jumper of the 2018/19 season - even though a 24th place was his best overall World Cup result before.
The 22-year-old has one big advantage: a powerful jump off that sits perfectly on most of the jumps. So he can quickly unfold his system and fly away from the others. He is already a sought-after advertising partner - in Europe and Asia. Red Bull secured his services.
Only at the World Championships in Seefeld it was "only" enough for him to win bronze with the team in 2019 - so he has to catch up. At the latest in 2021 at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Oberstdorf then. But first he has to confirm the high-flyer season. This is expected to be difficult in ski jumping.
- World Cup revenue 2018/19: 229.000 Euro
- 44,000 Instagram followers
- Sponsors: Red Bull, Finnair, Liznas, Autoshop Vallpan, Ceramic Power Gear, Visa, Ana, Subaru
- Supplier: BWT, Mizuno, Uvex, breed
The Pole Kamil Stoch is one of the most famous faces in ski jumping. For years he has been good for podium places, twice he won the Four Hills Tournament, twice he became World Champion - and three times Olympic Champion. In Poland he even has his own clothing line: Kamiland.
Even if it is not known how much money he earns with his brand, Stoch is a big earner of the scene. In the World Cup alone he collected about 142,000 Euros in winter 2018/19. With sponsors and equipment suppliers such as Atlas and Fischer, Stoch's income is likely to total around one million euros a year.
Beside the Austrian Stefan Kraft Stoch will be able to attack the Japanese Kobayashi best due to his consistency, although performance fluctuations in ski jumping are more likely than in other winter sports. After all, every movement in fractions of a second must be right to fly far.
- World Cup revenue 2018/19: 142.000 Euro
- 294,000 Instagram followers
- Sponsors: Lotos, Atlas, Renault, Sixt, Eurosport, Grupa Azoty
- Supplier: Fischer, 4F, Uvex, Rass