Olympic Alpine Skiing 2014: Breaking Down Top Contenders in Men's Giant Slalom

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Olympic Alpine Skiing 2014: Breaking Down Top Contenders in Men's Giant Slalom
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

We've seen some phenomenal performances already from alpine skiers at the 2014 Olympic Games, and the men's giant slalom event should offer more of the same. There is a highly competitive group at the top, and it will take perfection—or something close to it—to win the gold.

The athletes in this event are scheduled to hit the slopes at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Center on Wednesday, with the first run slated to begin at 2 a.m. ET and the final set for 5:30 a.m. ET.

To this point in the Games, Austria has been the undisputed champ of alpine skiing at Sochi, having collected five total medals—two golds, two silvers and one bronze. Switzerland and Slovenia also both have two gold medals, while Germany and Norway round out the top five with one gold apiece. 

Here's a look at where the top nations stand in the overall medal count, followed by viewing information for the upcoming men's giant slalom competition. Afterward, continue reading to find out which men have the best chance to win gold. 

 

When: Wednesday, Feb. 19, starting at 2 a.m ET

Where: Rosa Khutor Alpine Center, Krasnodar KraiRussia

Watch: NBC, beginning at 8 p.m. ET

Live Stream: NBC Olympics Live Extra

 

Favorites to Win Gold

Ted Ligety, USA

America has yet to win a gold medal in any alpine skiing event in Sochi, but that could well change on Wednesday when Ted Ligety takes on the men's giant slalom course.

Joe Battaglia of NBCOlympics.com notes Ligety is being picked by many to win this event. He also points out a big reason why, while adding some historical perspective: 

From a pure skiing standpoint, there is no one in the world that skis the turns with more precision than Ligety. He didn’t earn the nickname Shred for no reason...A victory in Sochi would make Ligety the first American gold medalist in the event. 

Ligety is the current repeat World Cup champion in the giant slalom, and he's won 20 World Cup races in this discipline. His ability to stay technically sound while attacking dangerous courses with enthusiastic aggression, has helped him carve out a niche as one of the world's premier giant-slalom racers.

 

Marcel Hirscher, Austria

Shinichirro Tanaka/Associated Press

If Ligety can't get the job done, then Austria could well win another gold medal in alpine skiing with Marcel Hirscher.

The Austrian star was expected to medal four years ago but failed to do so, finishing in fourth place in the giant slalom and fifth place in the slalom race. He's not dwelling on past failures, however, choosing instead to focus on what's in front of him. 

"A ski racer is like a child—you may fall down sometimes but you always have to get up again," he said, as relayed by the Associated Press, via NBCOlympics.com

With two World Cup victories already under his belt this season, along with four other podium finishes, Hirscher has been Ligety's top competition of late.

 

Alexis Pinturault, France

Agence Zoom/Getty Images

Young Alexis Pinturault (22) is a rising star within the alpine skiing community. He's finished on the podium nine times and has one gold medal in the giant slalom since joining the World Cup in 2011. 

Pinturault also comes into Sochi with some positive momentum, having won the super-combined event in Austria at the end of January. 

"It's a great result," Pinturault said after his win, as noted by the Associated Press, via SI.com. "My confidence is building and my skiing gets better and better. That's very positive for the Olympics."

He'll have to rebound from a couple of disappointing finishes in his first two Olympic events, however, after finishing in 23rd place in the downhill and crashing out in the slalom. Still, if he can put together a clean run, then the technically sound youngster has as good of a chance as any racer to win the gold. 

 

Follow me on Twitter @JesseReed78 

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