Alpine skiing can be a curious spectator sport where all competitors for Olympic gold race down a mountain with precision and skill, yet often less than a second separates the top 10 skiers on the two-minute runs. Watching it happen, the viewer gets a distinct feeling that everybody is going way, way too fast. Perhaps that's what makes it so riveting.
Two Alpine events have already been decided. Austrian Matthias Mayer took gold in men's downhill, and Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch prevailed in the women's super combined with an excellent slalom. Here is your complete guide to all the remaining events as the world's best Alpine skiers take headlong plummets down Caucasus slopes.
When: Alpine Skiing, Feb. 12-22
Where: Krasnaya Polyana, Russia (approximately 40 miles from Sochi)
Watch: NBC Primetime 8-11 p.m. ET, NBC Prime Replay 1-4 a.m. ET (both tape-delayed)
|Feb. 12||2 a.m.||Women's Downhill|
|Feb. 14||2 a.m.||Men's Super Combined, Downhill|
|Feb. 14||6:30 a.m.||Men's Super Combined, Slalom|
|Feb. 15||2 a.m.||Women's Super-G|
|Feb. 16||2 a.m.||Men's Super-G|
|Feb. 18||2 a.m.||Women's Giant Slalom|
|Feb. 19||2 a.m.||Men's Giant Slalom|
|Feb. 21||7:45 a.m.||Women's Slalom|
|Feb. 22||7:45 a.m.||Men's Slalom|
American Julia Mancuso took bronze in the super combined, but she was leading after the downhill with a scorching time of 1:42.68. Her disappointing 52.47 in the slalom cost her, but another strong showing in the downhill on Wednesday would surely grant her another medal, and possibly gold.
Men's Super Combined
Valentine's Day begins with the downhill in the usual 2 a.m. slot, and it wraps up with the slalom to decide the medals starting less than five hours later. American fans would love to see 36-year-old Bode Miller go for a sixth Olympic medal to stretch his own dominance as the best male U.S. Alpine skier in history.
However, Ted Ligety from Salt Lake City is a strong bet for gold. He took first place at a World Cup event in Wengen, Switzerland in mid-January, coming on the heels of three unsuccessful races to start the year. Ligety sounded relieved at the success, via NBC's Nick Zaccardi: "January's been a tough month for me so far. It’s nice to kind of turn the corner, I guess."
Super-G basically combines the pure speed of the downhill race with some of the technical elements involved in slalom. It also involves more complicated turns with the course being shorter than the typical downhill run.
Slovenian Tina Maze took silver in the event at the Vancouver Games, and despite the recent dip in her dominance, she put together a stellar season last year. As noted by Reuters' Martyn Herman: "Maze won an incredible 11 World Cup races in 2013, setting a new overall points record of 2,414 to beat the previous mark held by Lindsey Vonn, and also won the super-G world title."
She will look to conjure up that prowess and shake off her medal-less super combined as the women's super-G kicks off on Feb. 16.
As noted by Thom Drake of the Daily Mail, Alpine fans will have a chance to see a world-class violinist compete in the women's giant slalom on Feb. 19 as Vanessa Mae competes for Thailand.
Apparently, "The former child prodigy has sold millions of copies of her albums and she was the wealthiest young entertainer in the United Kingdom in 2006." Her father is from Thailand, and she's the only representative in Sochi for the Southeast Asian nation.
The difference between the giant slalom and slalom is that the gates are not as close together and there are no lateral gates which require short, quick turns. It is a very technical run but involves faster skiing.
Maria Hoefl-Riesch already defended her 2010 Olympic title in the super combined, and she will seek to become just the third woman ever to win four gold medals in Alpine skiing when she competes in the slalom on Feb. 21. She won the slalom portion of super combined, which netted her a first Sochi gold, and she's a good bet to do it again.
Feb. 22 sees the men's slalom, and whoever takes the top spot in the slalom element of the super combined the previous week will be a favorite to wrap up the Alpine events with gold.