Skiing has always been a sport for individuals – pitting one woman or man against the clock in the hunt for victory. So the new alpine skiing team event promises to be something very different for both participants and spectators alike, with teams of four taking on rival nations in a series of one-on-one parallel slalom races.
Included partly in response to the IOC’s Agenda 2020, which is seeking more gender equality and mixed events across all sports, the event is certain to be an exhilarating spectacle.
Held on a short course marked with giant slalom gates, 16 nations will participate. It’s a straight knockout, with the winners of each heat moving forward to the next round, culminating in a final for the two unbeaten nations and a bronze medal match for the semi-final losers.
Heats will be determined by International Ski Federation (FIS) national team rankings, with the top seed facing the 16th-ranked nation in the first round. Individual skiers face an opponent of the same gender in each tie. They start together and negotiate their way down identical courses featuring gates every 10 metres. Each match-up consists of two male and two female races.
A point is scored for every head to head won (if both skiers fall, the one who progressed further down the course gets the point), and if each team wins two races each, the cumulative time difference comes into account. Getting a quick start is vital on a route that usually takes no more than 25 seconds to descend, and with one race happening after the next, it’s a tiring contest in which team spirit plays a key part.
Alpine skiing team has been raced for over a decade on the World Championships stage, with Austria (three wins), France (two wins) and Germany (one win) proving the most adept so far. France’s foursome of Adeline Baud, Alexis Pinturault, Tessa Worley and Mathieu Faivre are reigning champions, having beaten Slovakia in the 2017 final in St Moritz, Switzerland.
The races will be held on 24 February at the newly-constructed route at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre, which has room for 6,000 fans. It is the final event on PyeongChang 2018’s skiing calendar – and potentially its most exciting.