Pyeongchang 2018

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Sport guide – Alpine Skiing: bravery at breakneck speed with a stylish twist

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 08:  Bode Miller of the United States skis during training for the Alpine Skiing Men's Downhill during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

Alpine Skiing is undoubtedly one of the most glamorous, dramatic and hotly-anticipated sports on the programme at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games.

Requiring skill, bravery and inch-perfect technique – and featuring stomach-churning speed, miraculous stamina and the occasional spectacular crash – it has all the elements of great, modern sport.

Maximum Speed

The action kicks off with the men’s downhill taking place at the newly constructed Jeongseon Alpine Centre on 11 February. The leading contenders will shoot down slopes with a gradient of between 15 and 30 degrees, and reach speeds of up to 140km/hour. With long skis and poles aerodynamically bent around their bodies, competitors complete one run, the quickest taking gold.

The super-G is the second of the speed disciplines. It combines a need for speed with the technical demands of the twisting slalom events. Gates are far more frequent than in the downhill, and are at least 25m apart. Again, it is simple maths, with the quickest taking the glory.

Twists and Turns

The Yongpyong Alpine Centre hosts the two slaloms in 2018, starting with the women’s giant slalom on 12 February. It features around 50 gates, putting an emphasis on accuracy. Skiers complete a first run before the top 30 start in reverse order to race for gold.


Let’s get into details

The slalom specialists have the shortest skis and straight poles fitted with plastic hand-guards, enabling them to flick the gates as they glide past. There are 55-75 gates in a single course for men and 45-60 for women, with as little as 75cm between some of them. The quickest combined time over two runs wins.

The combined event does what you would expect and identifies the ultimate all-rounders. First, competitors fly downhill before jinking their way through a slalom course.

Celebrating a debut

The 2018 Olympic programme wraps up on 24 February with a new competition, the team event. In a thrilling set-up, 16 four-person teams (two men, two women) will go head-to-head, with competitors skiing down a parallel giant slalom course in a knock-out eliminator.

Those vying for golden glory in PyeongChang have the legendary Sondre Norheim to thank. While evidence of skiing as a mode of transport stretches back to 3000 BC, Norheim is the father of modern ski racing. The Norwegian strapped on curved wooden skis and won the first national championships in 1868.

The sport made its Olympic debut at the 1936 Games and, 81 years later, it is one of the most popular pastimes in the world.


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