February 11, 2018 / 11:52 AM / 10 days ago

Alpine skiing: What to look out for in the women's giant slalom

PYEONGCHANG (Reuters) - After the postponement of the men’s downhill, the women’s giant slalom will open the Alpine skiing program at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Monday. Here is a brief guide to the event:

WHEN IS IT?

There are two runs on Monday, the first starting at 1015 am local time (0115 GMT/8.15 pm ET) and the second at 1.45 pm (0445 GMT/11.45 pm ET). The high winds that caused the postponement of the men’s downhill should not disrupt the schedule as slaloms are often run in weather that would stop speed events.

WHO ARE THE FAVORITES?

Mikaela Shiffrin begins her highly-anticipated Pyeongchang program on the back of two World Cup wins this season in the giant slalom.

This is not the American’s strongest event, however, and Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg, gold medalist in 2010 and third in 2014, leads the World Cup standings.

France’s world champion Tessa Worley showed strong form to beat Rebensburg into second place at the last World Cup giant slalom in Lenzerheide at the end of last month.

Anna Veith won silver under her maiden name Fenninger in Sochi four years ago and will again be a contender to finally claim the one Alpine skiing Olympic title Austria has never won.

WHICH COUNTRIES USUALLY DOMINATE?

Switzerland, the United States and Germany have won the gold medal more than once but Italy’s Deborah Compagnoni is the only individual skier to have won it twice (1994 and 1998).

Despite never having won gold, Austria has nine medals in the giant slalom.

HOW IS THE YONGPYONG COURSE SET UP?

The Yongpyong resort is owned by the Unification Church, whose adherents are known as Moonies, and has hosted men’s technical World Cup races four times since 1998.

The women’s giant slalom run on the Rainbow piste starts at an elevation of 1,368 metres and is 1,250 metres long with a vertical drop of 400 metres.

Lined up down the course are 50 gates, marked with pairs of red poles which the skiers are required to pass on alternate sides using 48 direction changes.

The skiers do the first run in the order dictated by the draw. The competitors go out in reverse order for the second run according to their times in the first.

WHY “GIANT” SLALOM?

The gates are spaced at a greater distance to each other than in slalom but not as far apart as in the super-G, a later development.

The first giant slalom was held in Italy in 1935 and the event joined the Olympic program in 1952 with the move to two runs for the women coming at the 1980 Olympics.

While giant slalom lacks the raw speed of the downhill and super-G, the technique shown by the skiers as they carve their way down the slope can be breathtaking.

HOW FAST AND HOW DANGEROUS IS IT?

Although it is one of Alpine skiing’s technical rather than speed events, the top skiers can still get up to 40 kph (25 mph) on the giant slalom course and crashes can be dramatic.

Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, Editing by Clare Fallon

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