Winter Olympics: Five things to know ahead of women's giant slalom

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American Mikaela Shiffrin, one of the biggest names at the Pyeongchang Games, begins her bid to light up the olympics in alpine skiing on Monday.

The 22-year-old targets the giant slalom to launch her multi-medal campaign following on her gold medal win in the slalom at the Sochi Olympics four years ago.

AFP looks at five things to know ahead of Monday’s race.

Shiffrin tipped for a bagful

The opening giant slalom is followed by Shiffrin’s slalom title defence, the super-G, downhill, combined and team events. It is a schedule the American herself could have scripted to maximise her chance of bagging multiple medals. “But I’m not actually sure whether I’ll have the energy to do (all) that,” she says. “Right now I’m focusing on giant slalom and slalom and after that switching the focus to speed.”

Mikaela Shiffrin

Work, work, work

Shiffrin won slalom gold at the 2014 Sochi olympics in Sochi at the age of 18, a year after she won the first of her three consecutive world slalom titles. She admits that the last four years have passed in a haze. “It’s crazy how fast the time has gone,” she says. “It feels now like Sochi was yesterday. It’s insane how I can get to this place and, not forget, but not remember every single detail of how much work that we’ve put into it in the last four years to get to this spot and to have the opportunity to be able to compete in five events at these olympics.”

Mikaela Shiffrin 1

Rebensburg bids for second gold

Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg is bidding for a second gold and third medal in the discipline having won in Vancouver at the age of 20 and picked up a bronze in Sochi. “The giant slalom is the most competitive for the women,” says Rebensburg, with only Italian Deborah Compagnoni having previously won two golds (1994, 1998).

Viktoria Rebensburg

Worley, La Squadra lurk

France’s reigning world GS champion Tessa Worley and a formidable Italian quartet, as well as Rebensburg, mean Shiffrin’s task is far from a fait accompli. “To be quite simple in what I’m doing is how I get to perform better, and then I have to stay focused in the moments when I really need to,” says Worley, born to a French mother and Australian father. Italy will be spearheaded by Soffia Goggia, accompanied by Federica Brignone, Marta Bassino and Manuela Moelgg.

Tessa Worley

Yongpyong, established resort

Unlike the purpose-built Jeongseon course, controversially carved through a forest for the men and women’s speed events, the Yongpyong venue has a longer history, dating back to 1975 and South Korea’s oldest and largest ski resort. Competition courses were constructed in 1998 for the 1999 Asian Winter Games. It has also hosted World Cup events in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006.

Yongpyong Alpine Centre

Provided by AFP Sport

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Earthquake, high winds and risk of fire disrupt proceedings at Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

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An earthquake triggered an alert and high winds disrupted competition at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Sunday, as officials warned of a severe freeze and urged fans to wrap up warm.

After a bitterly cold first night of competition, a shallow 4.6-magnitude earthquake jolted the eastern portion of South Korea overnight, prompting warnings on mobile phones.

Early on Sunday, ski officials were forced to postpone the showpiece men’s downhill until Thursday as buffeting winds made the high-speed slope too dangerous for competition.

Later, the women’s slopestyle snowboarding also fell victim to the wind, as the qualifying session was scrapped with riders going straight into the final on Monday.

It comes after the first ski jumping final finished more than an hour behind schedule, past midnight on Saturday, as competitors were held up by swirling winds.

As if to complete the set of extreme conditions, an alert warning of a high risk of fire – given the dry, windy weather – also flashed up on mobile phones on Sunday.

Organisers gave assurances that the Games were at no risk from earthquakes, with venues built to withstand even strong tremors. Sunday’s quake was measured at magnitude-4.7 by the US Geological Survey and was about 260 kilometres (160 miles) away.

“All the facilities in the Games area are built so they can withstand strong earthquakes over 7.0… so I assure you there was no issue regarding these facilities,” said Sung Baik-you, spokesman for the Games organisers.

Of more concern for the sparse crowds at the outdoor events will be the biting cold, which has already made Pyeongchang one of the chilliest Olympics on record – and which is set to dramatically worsen.

‘Wear hats and gloves’

Max Parrot

Temperatures are forecast to plunge to -14 degrees Celsius (6.8 Fahrenheit) on Monday, will feel like a shivering -25C in the strong, mountainside wind.

“People are advised to dress warmly and wear hats and gloves to keep themselves warm,” warned Sung.

The wind has made life tough so far for competitors, with several athletes complaining of difficult conditions.

“The conditions were pretty crazy today just because of the wind,” said Canada’s Max Parrot, after finishing second in the men’s slopestyle snowboarding on Sunday.

“Sometimes we have front winds, sometimes we have tailwinds. I think we could all see the difficulty today in the runs.”

The men’s ski jumping was particularly unpleasant, as the athletes had to contend with freezing cold at the top of the hill as well as their nerves as the delayed competition dragged on.

“It was cold as ice up there,” said Austria’s Michael Hayboeck, who finished 17th, while Poland’s Dawid Kubacki said the wind made the competition “a lottery”.

“It was really bad for me, what I can do?” he asked. “It’s something I have no influence on. I need to jump in the conditions when they let me go.”

However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the ski jumpers were never in danger.

“Athlete safety is our number one concern,” said spokesman Mark Adams. “All these venues are organised in very close contact with the federations.

“We’re very, very confident the federations and athletes know what they can and can’t do.”

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Winter Olympics: Snowboarder Red Gerard wins USA's first medal as Mark McMorris takes bronze

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Teenage snowboarder Red Gerard won the first Olympic medal for the United States on Friday but Canada’s Mark McMorris stole the show with an inspirational bronze medal.

Gerard, 17, became the youngest US men’s Olympic champion since 1928 with victory in slopestyle, with Canada’s Max Parrot taking the silver.

In another gold medal performance Simen Hegstad Krueger led a Norwegian podium sweep as he took gold in the men’s skiathlon. Charlotte Kalla won the women’s event for Sweden on Saturday.

But McMorris staked an early claim for the most inspirational story at the Pyeongchang Winter Games with his bronze medal finish just 11 months after a near-fatal crash.

His triumph came after an earthquake triggered an alert, high winds disrupted events and a fire warning was issued on a day of more sub-zero cold that left athletes and spectators shivering.

McMorris was fighting for his life after breaking 17 bones and suffering a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen in a snowboarding accident last year.

“I don’t want to think too much about the past today, but I appreciate the fact I’m here on my snowboard,” he said.

“Whatever the outcome was today, just me being pumped on being able to ride a snowboard.”

Earlier Sunday high winds forced the postponement of the showpiece men’s downhill alpine skiing race and a shallow 4.6 magnitude earthquake jolted parts of eastern South Korea. Officials later warned of a high risk of fire due to the tinder-dry conditions in the region.

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Men's Downhill

After the downhill was put off, the women’s women’s slopestyle snowboarding also fell victim to the wind, as the qualifying session was scrapped with riders going straight into the final on Monday.

The men’s downhill will now be raced on Thursday.

Later Sunday French biathlon champion Martin Fourcade opens his campaign for multiple Olympic honours.
France’s most decorated winter Olympian with four medals including two golds, Fourcade is a strong contender to take a first gold medal in Pyeongchang in the biathlon sprint.

Standing in his way is Norway’s Johannes Thingnes Bo, the 26-year-old who has been battling him for honours from the start of the season, with the Frenchman gaining an edge heading into the Games.

“It’s a duel that motivates me,” said Fourcade, the 29-year-old French army officer. “I see it as an obligation to perform better because I know that I need to do my best in order to beat him.”

Six gold medals in total are up for grabs Sunday with speedskating, luge and freestyle skiing still to come as well as the biathlon.

Canada’s Justine Dufour-Lapointe, the defending champion, is back and heads a strong field in the women’s freestyle skiing moguls.

In speedskating Dutch idol Sven Kramer can race into the record books as the first male to win three gold medals in a specific skating event.

In Luge Germany’s Felix Loch can become the sport’s first four-time gold medallist as the final two runs of men’s singles are contested.

Provided by AFP Sport

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