Alice Robinson's extraordinary start to her ski racing career has seen New Zealand chosen to set the course for a World Cup race for the first time.
Robinson's co-coach Kiwi Chris Knight will set the course for the first runs at back-to-back World Cup Giant Slalom races on the 12th and 13th of December in Courchevel in France.
It's a big deal and Knight will be able to set the course to suit Robinson's strengths.
"It's quite exciting for New Zealand in the sport of ski racing, all done by Alice's results over the last couple of years, that she has us in a position up the rankings where we were selected to set the course - so it's very exciting," Knight said from Lech in Austria where Robinson is preparing for a World Cup Parallel Slalom tomorrow night.
Knight, who has set courses about 20 times during his coaching career while working for the US team with superstar athletes like Lindsay Vonn and Julia Mancuso, says there was only a small chance New Zealand would get selected due to a complex process with 18-year-old Robinson the only ski racer contributing points.
"Luckily enough it came down to the point where we were actually selected without even having to go into the lottery for the last few spots. That was pretty good to be guaranteed it," Knight said.
Robinson finished 12th in the opening World Cup GS in Solden in Austria in late October, the race which catapulted her into the spotlight when she won as a 17-year-old in 2019.
She has this week's parallel GS in Austria before competing in her first Super G of the season next week in St Moritz in Switzerland. Then it will be back on the Giant Slalom skis for the second round of the World Cup in Courchevel, a race she finished 10th in last season in her first outing back from an injury layoff.
Due to Covid-19 there are a number of double headers this season including Courchevel where World Cup Giant Slaloms will be held on Saturday night and Sunday night. Knight will set the course for the first runs both days.
He says being able to set the course to suit Robinson will really enhance her chances against her rivals.
"It depends a little bit on snow conditions as to how much you can push the boundaries of what you want to do and how you will train it before going into the actual race. We are not allowed to go near the race hills up until a week before they start so there's not normally a chance to set a race hill that you are going to race on later in the year, but often you can find terrain that's pretty similar and then practice on those courses.
"We know she's a very good technical skier so we will set to her advantages in that respect and base training off of it as well and we should be in good shape."
Another coach from another country will set the course for the second runs.
Tonight it's a rare look at the Parallel GS for Robinson who will also race the event at February's World Championships in Italy.
It features two skiers racing each other down a shortened GS course twice with the winner having the best combined time in qualifying going through to a top 16. The fastest qualifier will race the 16th qualifier with the winners advancing to quarter-finals, semifinals before the top two compete in the final.
Knight says Robinson qualified fifth in the same race last year and got knocked out early in the knockout format but the signs are promising.
"It's been good preparation and I think her competitive nature will come out and help her a lot in this format."