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2014 Winter Olympics

Winter Olympics: Alpine Skiing

Ligety and Shiffrin skiing toward the podium

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Before it was a sport, skiing was an important means of transportation.

The exact origin of skiing is unclear, but there is evidence that Scandinavians were using skis to travel and hunt over snow-covered terrain as far back as 4,000 years ago.

Organized slalom races were first introduced in Europe during the 1920s and the first world championship was organized in 1931. Shortly thereafter, Americans caught on and interest in this country snowballed throughout the 1930s.

Alpine skiing made its Olympic debut at the 1936 Garmisch-Partenkirchen Games with a men's and women's combined event, featuring a downhill and two slalom runs. Giant slalom first appeared at the 1952 Oslo Games and the super giant slalom, or super G, was added at the 1988 Calgary Games.

Men and women will each compete in five Alpine skiing events in Sochi:

  • downhill: a steep descent against time
  • slalom: a short race featuring sharp turns around flags
  • giant slalom: longer, looser version of the slalom
  • super G: slalom race that is a bit faster and longer than the giant slalom
  • combined: one downhill run followed by two slalom runs; fastest combined time wins

All men's and women's alpine events will take place at a single venue, Rosa Khutor, an alpine resort located on the Aibga Ridge in the Krasnaya Polyana district of the Northern Caucasus. The alpine events of the Games will begin with Men's downhill on Feb. 9, and end with Men's super combined on Feb. 14.

U.S. hopes for gold are high this year with Mikaela Shiffrin, the youngest alpine World Champion in American history. At 18, Shiffrin became the first American skier of either gender to win three or more slaloms in a World Cup season twice, and now owns the most World Cup wins of any American woman. For the men, look to Ted Ligety, considered the best giant slalom skier in the world. Veterans Bode Miller and Julia Mancuso will be skiing in Sochi, but Olympic champion Lindsey Vonn won't, having suffered yet another racing injury in Val d’Isere, France on Dec. 21.

—John Gettings, Christine Frantz, and Catherine McNiff


More about the 2014 Winter Olympics

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