As winner of the Microsoft Office Winter Games Blogging Competition, I have been sent to Vancouver and Whistler to check out some of the 2010 Winter Olympic events, including the men's Giant Slalom competition.
Fortunately for me, I got to be right alongside journalists from around the world. Unfortunately for the U.S., they got to be beat by people from around the world.
The men's Giant Slalom is an event in which skiers race down a hill through sets of gates that are separated farther than regular slalom events, but not as far as Super-G races. Typically men race between 56 and 70 gates, with the Olympics using 52 of them.
Run one saw four U.S. athletes—Ted Ligety, Tommy Ford, Jake Zamansky and Bode Miller—hit the 405m vertical drop course Tuesday morning. Unfortunately, the scores were not great.
The bar was set high by world champion Giant Slalom skier, Carlo Janka of Switzerland, with a time of one minute and 27.17 seconds.
Ligety was first for the U.S. and took eighth place with 1:17.87, point-sixth of a second behind Janka. First-time U.S. skier Zamansky was up next and he finished in 34th place with a time of 1:19.85. Fellow newcomer Ford came flying in at 1:19.10, taking 26th place.
The true upset was for Miller, the men's Super-Combined gold medalist, who did not finish the race after a touch to the ground on his first run. He did not compete in the second run.
Ligety, Ford and Zamansky had a chance to hit the Giant Slalom slopes for one more run, but Miller will have to come back Saturday in the men's regular slalom competition to redeem himself.
Run two saw Ligety fall to ninth place with a time of 1:21.24 and a combined time of 2:39.11. Ford retained his 26th place and raced down the hill at 1:22.05 and a combined score of 2:42.15. Zamansky jumped to 31st place, making his second run in 1:22.5 and scoring a combined time of 2:42.34.
Janka took home the gold with a combined time of 2:37.83, 1:20.56 on his second run.
Although the U.S. didn't do so hot, it should be noted that although losing is losing, the times in this event are so close that even a breath at a wrong time can screw you up.
Standing along the sidelines, I can appreciate the talent of these guys win or lose, because wow—those boys were moving fast! I can maybe make it down a run in 15 minutes on a board, but these guys are knocking it out in under a minute and a half.
You're flying dangerously fast and even one fall—as seen by Miller's mishap—can end it for you.
So, even though the medals escaped the U.S. this round, I've got to give it up for our athletes. Watch for the U.S. men's skiers next in regular slalom this Saturday and hopefully, we can have a better day.
No need to worry though. In such a cold sport, there's always a chance to heat up.