Shiffrin desperate to rebound in Beijing Olympic slalom
US star Mikaela Shiffrin will be keen to put the disappointment of skiing out of the giant slalom behind her and focus on nailing down a second Olympic slalom medal on Wednesday.
The slalom will take place over two legs on the man-made Ice River course in Yanqing, north of Beijing, on totally artificial snow.
Shiffrin will face stiff competition to top the podium in skiing's shortest event.
AFP looks at five things to know ahead of the race.
-Shiffrin's mission -
Shiffrin's bid for a third Olympic gold at a third Games ran aground in unfamiliar fashion in the giant slalom on Monday with a rare DNF (did not finish). The American, who won slalom gold in 2014 and giant slalom in 2018, slid unceremoniously out of the first leg after just four gates. Vowing not to shed any tears because it was a "waste of energy", Shiffrin added: "My best chance for the next races is to move forward, to refocus." She is a four-time world champion in slalom.
- Eyes on Vlhova -
After seven of the nine slalom races of the current World Cup season, Petra Vlhova tops the standings ahead of Shiffrin and she will surely be looking, like the American, to improve on her giant slalom showing. "I was in a little bit of trouble with the conditions," she said after her 14th-placed finish in the longer technical event. "I couldn’t find my skiing, my rhythm." But the Slovak is primed for the slalom. "They're different disciplines so I’m ready for the fight."
- Liensberger, Austria calls -
Austrian Katharina Liensberger was the unexpected star of the 2021 world championships in Cortina, winning not only the slalom, but bronze in the giant slalom and a shared gold in the parallel giant slalom. Although she disappointed in the giant slalom in Yanqing, finishing a place behind Vlhova in 15th, Liensberger can be counted on to provide some stiff competition come the slalom.
- Snowy paradise -
"What I can tell you is that the snow we find right now on the courses is absolutely perfect," says Bernhard Russi, the "piste architect" who has been creating courses for the International Ski Federation since 1980, having won gold and silver for Switzerland in the Olympic downhills in 1972 and 1976. "I think for the ski racers it's just like paradise." Russi warned that artificial snow was here to stay when it came to ski racing. "In order to have a perfect course for alpine racing you need man-made snow to get the right quality, the compact snow for the power which these racers are able to put down on the snow."
- Slowest yet trickiest -
The slalom may be the slowest of all the alpine skiing disciplines but it is also the trickiest and most technical, featuring the shortest course but gates that are closer together. Skiers must make quick, rapid-fire turns over two runs on the same slope. One centimetre out with a turn and a skier risks adding themselves to the estimated 10 percent of the field that does not complete the course or is disqualified for straddling or missing a gate. Women have to negotiate between 40 and 60 gates, marked with alternating red and blue poles down the slope. The skiers are not allowed any practice runs on the course but can ski alongside it in a one-hour pre-race inspection.