February 23, 2010 / 5:37 AM / 9 years ago

Giant slalom offers huge contrasts

WHISTLER (Reuters) - The bizarre sight of a skier being overtaken by another is always a possibility in Tuesday’s men’s Olympic giant slalom, race director Guenther Hujara said on Monday.

Peruvian Alpine skiers Ornella Oettl Reyes (L) and her brother Manfred carry their skis during a training session at the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia, February 22, 2010. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

Some 103 men from 61 countries, including first timers Pakistan and the Cayman Islands, are entered in the technical discipline.

The competitors range from Austria’s 2006 Olympic champion Benjamin Raich all the way to 51-year-old Hubertus von Hohenlohe, representing Mexico in his fifth Olympics, and 16-year-old Peruvian Manfred Oettl Reyes.

“I don’t see too many problems occurring tomorrow because there is a minimum qualification necessary and the racers should be able to do it,” Hujara told Reuters after a crowded team captains’ meeting that resembled a United Nations assembly.

“But it (being overtaken) is always possible and I hope that everybody knows the rules. I am positive.”

“The challenge is that the capability of the racers is so different,” Hujara continued, when asked whether the size of the field posed a problem.

“We gave the chance to all the racers to test the slope today to get some experience on the slope with the terrain, with the snow conditions, and we have seen huge, huge differences in skills.

“I hope this will not cause too big problems tomorrow,” added the German. “There is a very simple rule: if a racer is passed, he is disqualified.

“Assuming that the following racer comes in with speed and the first racer is still acting like ‘Do I go, don’t I go?’ and is in the middle of the course, then this causes huge problems for us, how we handle it.”

The giant slalom at the 1992 Albertville Games claimed an Olympic first when 129th starter Raymond Kayrouz of Lebanon was overtaken by 130th starter El Hassan Matha of Morocco. Qualifying standards were imposed after that.

Hujara said that, purely for organisational reasons within a tight schedule, he would normally prefer a smaller field but recognised that the Olympics were a special case.

“With the Olympics, the message is that participation is also very important. We accept that, we respect every country and every racer,” he said.

“We can also be a little proud. There are 75 different countries entered in Alpine, the most in any sport in the Olympics here, so maybe we are doing things not too badly.”

Editing by Miles Evans; To query or comment on this story emailsportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com

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