Background: Alpine skiing
first appeared on the Olympic programme at the fourth edition of the Olympic Winter Games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1936
, when men’s and women’s combined events were held. In the 1948 Winter Games
, separate downhill
and slalom races
joined the combined event on the programme. Four years later at the Oslo 1952 Winter Games
, the giant slalom
replaced the combined event. Then, in 1988, the super combined
events were added to the programme. Now, the Winter Games feature ten medal events, with men and women both contesting downhill, super combined, super-G, giant slalom and slalom.
Athletes to watch in Sochi:
(Copyright: Getty Images, IOC)
The Sochi 2014 Alpine skiing events, which will be held at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre, will open with the men’s downhill on 9 February, when Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal will be looking to improve on the silver medal he won in Vancouver in 2010, having secured the 2013 downhill World Cup title.
Austria’s Marcel Hirscher, who won the overall World Cup title in 2012 and 2013, will be looking to win his first Olympic medals in Sochi, having finished fourth in the giant slalom and fifth in the slalom during Vancouver 2010.
In the women’s events, Slovenia’s Tina Maze will be aiming to follow up her impressive 2013 World Cup season – when she won the overall, super-G, giant slalom and combined titles – by claiming her first Olympic gold medal. US star Lindsey Vonn will miss the Games through injury, meaning she will be unable to defend the downhill title she won in Vancouver.
In her absence, US hopes are likely to rest on the shoulders of teenage sensation Mikaela Shiffrin, the reigning World Cup and world champion in slalom.
Germany’s Maria Höfl-Riesch, who won Olympic gold in the combined and slalom in Vancouver, is also likely to feature on the podium again, having started the 2014 season in impressive form.
Austria’s Toni Sailer
became the first man to sweep the Alpine skiing events at the Winter Games, winning gold medals in downhill, slalom and giant slalom in Cortina d'Ampezzo in 1956
, aged just 21.
France’s Jean-Claude Killy
repeated the feat on home soil in Grenoble in 1968
to etch his name into Olympic history.
Following Killy’s heroics in 1968, one of the most memorable performances in the history of the Winter Games came in Innsbruck in 1976
, when Austria’s Franz Klammer
– the reigning downhill World Cup champion – flew down the slopes of Patscherkofel to beat defending Olympic champion Bernhard Russi by just 0.33 seconds, much to the delight of the Austrian fans.
Italy’s Alberto Tomba
also thrilled crowds at the Games between 1988
, winning three golds and two silvers as he dominated the slalom and giant slalom events.
The most decorated athlete in the sport, however, is Norway’s Kjetil André Aamodt
, who won four golds, two silvers and two bronzes between Albertville 1992
and Turin 2006
. He is also both the youngest and oldest male Alpine skier to win a gold medal at the Games.
The most successful female athlete, meanwhile, is Croatia’s Janica Kostelić
- the only woman to win three Olympic Alpine skiing titles in one Games, having claimed gold in the slalom, giant slalom and combined in Salt Lake City in 2002
. Kostelic added a fourth gold by winning the combined title again in Torino in 2006
, while she also won super-G silver medals in 2002 and 2006.
Kostelić is closely followed by Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider
, who won three golds, one silver and one bronze between 1988 and 1994, Germany’s Katja Seizinger
(three gold and two bronze) and Italy’s Deborah Compagnoni
, who won gold at three successive Games between 1992 and 1998, as well as one silver medal.
Watch the Alpine Skiing Giant Slalom Men from Vancouver 2010: