Passionate for skiing from a very young age
I met Monegasque alpine ski racer Arnaud Alessandri on a hot summer afternoon in June. He was preparing to leave for Savoy in France to practice skiing on the glacier of Val-d’Isere, that offers ideal conditions for summer skiing and get in shape for the winter season.
Arnaud, better known as Shrek, was born in Monaco on July 15 1993 of Monegasque parents. His father Andre is an automobile pilot and has an events company called MITI, while his mother Marina works in College Albert I in Monaco, and he has a younger brother called Arthur. They are both great supporters of his alpine skier career. He learned to ski when he was 2 years old in Auron in the South Alps near Monaco, with his father who at the time was a ski instructor. He used to ski just for fun with his parents during weekends and winter holidays. One day he participated in a ski school race and loved it, so he told his father “I want to do ski racing”, and so Andre registered his son in the ski club for the end of the season, and he has not stopped ever since! His enjoys free skiing in powder that he finds “so cool and smooth!” But he loves downhill ski racing because it is the speediest discipline in alpine skiing and he needs the adrenaline it gives him, and according to him it has become an addiction! He confesses that you have to work very hard to be in shape, including fitness training and road bike but he does it all with pleasure. The tough work is compensated when he travels around the world, finding himself on the snow in some beautiful destination, one better than the other. No work, no gain!
Arnaud told me that the ski racing level in France is very good and he has the chance to train with the French ski team that provides for fire in the belly, and enables him to compare his skiing abilities with the other guys in his group during training. “I am privileged to have entered into partnership with the French team, because for a Monegasque racer the hardest thing is to find a training group because there are not many skiers in this small country.” He has to live in the Savoy away from his parents and childhood friends, but he loves to have nature all around him, that he finds really soothing. To remind him of his country he tries to prepare Monegasque traditional dishes, unfortunately “with no real success!”
There are many challenges faced by a ski racer, finding other people and teams to train, being able to coach yourself, efficiently manage your schedule and plan, keeping in good spirits when travelling around Europe alone for weeks. But according to Arnaud the biggest of all is raising funds to finance a very costly sport.
To this date his greatest achievement is a first place at the World Junior Championship in Chamoix Mont-Blanc. At 22nd Winter Olympics in February in Sochi, Russia, he came 39th in downhill, 35th in super-combined downhill. Arnaud explained, “Unfortunately, I fell down in the slalom of the Super-Combined and I missed a gate in the Super-G. Nevertheless, it was an incredible experience, I am young and I went to this Olympics to gain experience and I certainly did. “ With a total population of 37,000 inhabitants, with only 8,500 Monaco nationals, it makes it difficult for the Principality to compete at the international level, so Arnaud’s participation was quite an accomplishment. The best souvenir up to now was the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in Sochi, full of emotions and pure joy! http://youtu.be/iRlCcOdmuHg
Downhill and Super-G
Arnaud told me enthusiastically, “My main goal for the upcoming season is to be in the top 30 of the European Cup Standing in Downhill and super-G.” He added: “I will give the best of me, hoping for good results and continue to live his passion.” Arnaud’s long-term dream would be to be in the top 10 skiers in world cup or even better. He is highly motivated to get up early, train and keep competing because he considers it the best life to live, his passion.
Downhill is an alpine skiing discipline. Downhill skiing is a commonly used term that is synonymous with alpine skiing to denote the sport and recreational activity of alpine skiing. It involves the highest speeds and therefore the greatest risks of all the alpine events. Racers on a typical international-level course exceed speeds of 130 km/h and some courses, such as the notable Lauberhorn course in Wengen, Switzerland, and the Hahnenkamm course in Kitzbuhel, Austria, speeds of up to 150 km/h in certain sections are common. Competing in the Downhill event requires skiers to perfect an aerodynamically efficient (tuck) position to minimize drag and increase speed. This contrasts to the technical expertise required in lower speed slalom events (Super G, Giant Slalom & Slalom) where turns are progressively more emphasized. Equipment for the Downhill is different from the alpine events that are lower-speed. Skis are 30% longer than those used in Slalom, for more stability at high speed. They usually have rounded, low-profile tips rather than pointed tips. Ski poles are bent so as to curve around the body as the racer stays in a “tuck position” and may have aerodynamic, cone-shaped baskets. As in other alpine disciplines, Downhill racers wear skin-tight suits to minimize drag, and helmets are mandatory. In an attempt to increase safety, the 2003-2004 season saw the International Ski Federation (FIS) increased the minimum side cut radius for Downhill skis to 45 m from 40 m, and impose minimum ski lengths for the first time: 218 cm for men, and 210 cm for women. Safety netting and padding are placed in worrisome areas where race officials anticipate crashes. Despite these safety precautions, the ski racing community is well aware of the inherent risks in Downhill skiing, for it is possible for racers to suffer serious injury or death while practicing or competing.
Super giant slalom, or super-G, is a racing discipline of alpine skiing. Along with the faster downhill, it is regarded as a “speed” event, in contrast to the technical events giant slalom and slalom. It debuted as an official World Cup event during the 1983 season and was added to the official schedule of the World Championships in 1987 and the Winter Olympics in 1988. Much like downhill, the other of the two “speed” events in alpine skiing, a super-G course consists of widely set gates that race r s must turn around. The course is set so that skiers must turn more than in downhill, though the speeds are still much higher than in giant slalom. Each athlete only has one run to clock the best time. In the Olympics, super-G courses are usually set on the same slopes as the downhill, but with a lower starting point. In an attempt to increase safety, the 2004 season saw the FIS impose minimum ski lengths for the super-G for the first time, to 205 cm for men, 200 cm for women. The minimum radius was increased to 45m for the season 2013/2014.
Getting to know Arnaud personally
Arnaud told me that if he weren’t a ski racer he would probably be a downhill biker or maybe a racecar driver like his father. When he is not skiing he enjoys downhill biking, golf, tennis, motorcycle, going out with his friends and sleeping! He enjoys watching ice hockey because it is a contact sport and really tough technically.
The most influential person in his career is his father Andrea Alessandria, and his role model would be Austrian alpine skier Herman Maier. His favorite ski resort in the world is the domain of the three valleys connected by ski lift: Courchevel, Meribel, La Tania, Les Menuires, Val-Thorens. There are many slopes and beautiful landscapes.
His best pre-race tune is Highway to Hell of AC/DC: http://youtu.be/gEPmA3USJdI
As for his choice of a night out with the boys or dinner date with a girl, he smiled and said: “The two proposals are great, the best would be dinner date with a girl and after a good party with my friends and the girl!”
His favorite movie is the popular American sports comedy Cool Runnings by John Turteltaub, released in 1993, based on the true story of the Jamaica national bobsled team’s debut in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. http://youtu.be/95y3vZNcUbs
As a final message Arnaud wants to thank all the people who support him, particulary his parents, the Monegasque Ski Federation, specially Jacques Pastor (in the photo Jacques and Arnaud during the awards ceremony on May 17 honoring all the athletes), and most importantly his sponsors because they are the reason he is where he is today. “Skiing is a vey expensive sport, so I hope I will be able to find additional sponsors and partners through this article to continue developing my career.” For more information please contact Andre Alessandri at firstname.lastname@example.org