Mikaela Shiffrin and Dominik Paris will defend their world super-G titles at Cortina d'Ampezzo on Tuesday with the American star of women's skiing seeking to make up for the frustration of missing out on her first event.
Shiffrin is seeking to add to her seven world medals after Monday's combined was cancelled because of heavy snow.
Paris is making a comeback from a season-ending injury and could prove the perfect tonic for home fans, watching from their sofas amid strict Covid-19 protocols that have forced spectators to be banned.
Double shock for Shiffrin?
Shiffrin described her super-G victory at the Are worlds two years ago as a "shock", despite her undoubted all-round ability -- she remains the sole skier, male or female, to have won races in the six disciplines currently held on the World Cup circuit.
What might come as more of a shock this time around is the fact the 25-year-old has chosen to defend her title, despite having only raced 10 times in the last 12 months, a year marked by the sudden death of her father Jeff last February.
“I am really going into this speed section of the worlds champs with the intention of almost trying to take it as an opportunity for training,” said Shiffrin, who will also compete in the alpine combined, giant slalom and slalom.
“I still do believe that with just the last few days of training we have been able to get, and my comfort levels on the skis, I think it could still be a really great result, it’s just I am not going in to defend my title, if that makes sense. I wanted to be clear about that up front.”
Italy's Federica Brignone, a giant slalom bronze medallist at the Pyeongchang Olympics in 2018, said: "She's a new Shiffrin and the results are great. She's always top five, top six and considering what she's done in the last season, I can tell you she's going to be really dangerous for the world championships. She's not dead and she's really strong."
All Italian eyes on Paris in Goggia's absence
Cortina organisers were undoubtedly robbed of one of their star attractions when Sofia Goggia sustained a season-ending knee injury. The charismatic Olympic downhill champion, who won world super-G silver behind Shiffrin in Are in 2019, will be a sore loss for her home world champs.
She will pass the buck of Italian expectations to teammates Brignone and Marta Bassino.
While Goggia is absent, local hopes in the men's super-G rest on the shoulders of veteran Christof Innerhofer and in-form Dominik Paris.
Innerhofer was world super-G champion back in 2011 and can still threaten for a podium, while Paris won the downhill last weekend in Garmisch-Partenkirchen just a year after blowing his knee in training in Kitzbuehel.
"It was a great weekend with the victory in DH and a good run in the super-G," said Paris, the defending men's world super-G champion.
"Next stop @cortina2021, time for something serious!"
Czech skier Ester Ledecka made history in Pyeongchang in 2018, storming to Olympic super-G gold in what was one of the biggest upsets in Games history, albeit by a hundredth of a second ahead of now-retired Austrian Anna Veith.
Ledecka is unique in that she flips between alpine skiing and snowboarding. In South Korea, she went on to win a second Olympic gold in parallel giant slalom on her snowboard -- the first time an athlete has won medals on skis and a snowboard.
Having nailed two sixth-placed finishes in Garmisch on the back of a World Cup super-G victory in Val d'Isere in December, Ledecka remains a racer wholly capable of again upsetting the apple cart.