Preview: Men's slalom
The Olympic alpine racing program wraps up Saturday with the men's slalom. The first run is scheduled for 10 a.m. local time, while the second run takes place at 1:45 p.m. On another day of difficult weather conditions, fog is expected to gather along the course.
The slalom consists of two runs on courses set by delegates of two nations selected in a drawing prior to the Games. The gates of a slalom course comprise alternating pairs of red and blue poles. There are 55 to 75 gates for men. The skier with the fastest composite time is the winner.
After a clean sweep of medals in this event at the 2006 Torino Olympics, the Austrian men will go into the event desperate for at least a podium placing, anxious to silence criticism at home. The slalom offers the Austrian men one last chance to capture a medal in Vancouver after they have been kept off the podium for all four events so far. Defending Olympic champion Benjamin Raich and Olympic silver medalist and teammate Reinfried Herbst will be back to defend their medals.
One has to go back 74 years in Olympic history, to find the last Olympic Winter Games (1936 in Garmisch-Partenkirchen) in which the country failed to medal in a men's alpine skiing event.
Raich ranked fifth in World Cup slalom hopes to follow up a victory after having won gold in Torino although he knows all too well labout the unpredictability of slalom. In 2009, he lost the overall title to Norway's Aksel Lund Svindal on the last day of the season, needing simply to cross the finish line in the slalom event to clinch the title. After missing a gate seconds into his first run, Raich lost by a two-point margin (1,009-1,007). It was the smallest margin ever. "Der Blitz aus Pitz" with his quiet, unflashy demeanor is definitely a strong candidate.
Herbst, current leader in the season-long World Cup discipline standings, probably represent the country's best medal bet. In his specialty event, he has emerged as a consistent threat. The skier from Salzburg has nine career World Cup wins, all in slalom, with four of them coming in the last 4 months. Herbst was third in the discipline standings in 2008 and fifth in the 2009 season and claimed two victories leading into the Games, which definitely makes him one to watch.
Any one of Austria's four entries could end up on the podium - besides Herbst and Raich, defending world champion Manfred Pranger and rising star Marcel Hirscher, who has claimed four World Cup podiums this season, will be at the start for the Austrians.
Olympic bronze medalist in super combined Ivica Kostelic of Croatia should definitely be included in the medal discussion. He has already claimed silver in combined at Turin, where he also finished sixth in slalom. Nine of his eleven career World Cup wins have come in slalom, the other two in combined. He was a career-best fourth in the overall standings last season.
Double silver medalist at the 2009 World Championships Julien Lizeroux of France is another serious contender who could come through in the 2010 Games. France has won at least one gold medal in every Games since 1998.
Although Italy has struggled in men's Alpine at the Olympics of late, the nation does have medal chances featuring silver medalist in the 2007 World Championships Manfred Moelgg and Giuliano Razzoli. The two skiers will try to become the first Italians since Alberto "La Bomba" Tomba to win an Olympic medal. Tomba won the last of his five medals (three gold, two silver) at the 1994 Lillehammer Games.
The race also provides a chance for the USA's Bode Miller having won three medals already in Vancouver (gold in the super combined; silver in super-G and bronze in downhill) to become the first skier to win an Olympic medal in all five events in alpine skiing. However, Miller is not a likely medalist in slalom as he finished only two of five slaloms this season.
In the final alpine ski race of the Olympic program, Canada hopes that home turf advantage will finally add up to a ski medal and salvage a happy ending for the country. 2009 world championship bronze medalist in slalom and local favourite Michael Janyk grew up skiing at Whistler Mountain, on which the Canadians have practiced more than any other country. No Canadian has ever won an Olympic medal in slalom. The best finish so far was a ninth place by now-retired Thomas Grandi in the 2006 Torino Games.
Alpine Skiing after 9 events (4 men's, 5 ladies)
A pacific frontal system has reached the south coast and will continue to slowly move eastward through sunday. This system will leave behind some unsettled conditions today and tonight before a weak ridge of high pressure builds over the area on sunday.
The ridge will provide drier conditions for most of sunday
Cloudy with flurries.
Snowfall amount 2 to 4 cm.
Alpine high minus 1.
Freezing level 1300 metres rising to 1500 metres this afternoon.
Mountain top winds southeast 20 km/h diminishing to light this morning.
Cloudy with a few flurries.
Snowfall amount trace.
Alpine low minus 3.
Freezing level lowering to valley bottom overnight.
Mountain top winds light and variable.