Connect to share and comment

Olympics: Shiffrin eyes giant slalom gold, Vanessa Mae takes to piste

PlacardEnlarge
(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

American teenager Mikaela Shiffrin will bid to win the first of two Olympic medals when she takes to the Rosa Khutor piste for Tuesday's women's giant slalom, also featuring celebrated violinist Vannesa Mae.

Shiffrin, crowned world slalom champion at the age of 17 last year, is attempting to become the youngest American to win an Olympic gold medal in alpine skiing -- she's now 18.

She has downplayed her role in boosting the US team's medal count, saying: "I'm not really actually thinking about it that way. I'm going in to compete my best in my events.

"And if that means that it ups our medal count, that's great, because I am also here to compete for the US. But I don't think I'm the only one. I can be one of the ones."

The self-assured teenager has twice made the World Cup podium in the giant slalom this season, something she says has been a principal aim.

"I'm really excited to have two podiums this season. I'm really looking forward to the giant slalom, not just the slalom race. I want to medal in the two event," she said.

One of her main rivals will likely by Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch, who admitted Sunday she was suffering from a slight cold.

"I just woke up and felt like I've a sore throat. I tried to ignore that illness. It's nothing serious," she said, putting it down to a heavy schedule.

"Our programme was rather dense prior to the Olympics as well and we had a tight schedule. If you remember, one race was cancelled, so for giant slalom I only practised in December.

"That's maybe not enough time to prepare for giant slalom, but for the race I can participate in a relaxed manner," said the 29-year-old, who has already won gold in the super combined and silver in the super-G at the Sochi Games.

- Vanessa Mae swaps violin for skis -

One famous participant in the giant slalom will be professional violinist Vanessa Vanakorn, better known as Vanessa Mae.

The 35-year-old British former child prodigy was born in Singapore to Thai and Chinese parents, but grew up in London where she become renowned for what she has described as her "techno-acoustic fusion".

Because Thailand has no skiers ranked in the world top 500, it is allowed to send one man and one woman for the slalom and giant slalom events if they have an average of no more than 140 points over five internationally recognised races. A stronger performance earns fewer points.

Mae, a British citizen who has been training in Zermatt in Switzerland for several years, qualified after racing four times in Slovenia in a desperate bid to compete, under her father's surname Vanakorn.

"I'm British but realistically there is no way I could represent my own country. Because my natural father is Thai, they have accepted me," she told the Daily Telegraph.

Hoefl-Riesch was left amused by her the violinist's stature.

"It's interesting there are such people among us, when you see her, how small she is, how petite," said the towering German.

Hoefl-Riesch's main rivals, apart from Shiffrin, include Slovenian Tina Maze, who has been the dominant force in the discipline since the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, when she won the silver medal.

Maze, who won downhill gold at the Sochi Games, won giant slalom gold at the 2011 world championships and silver at the 2013 world championships. In the 2012/13 World Cup season, she won five giant slalom races, including four in a row, and was on the podium for all nine races.

Swedish duo Jessica Lindell-Vikarby and Maria Pietilae-Holmner should push for a podium along with Switzerland's Lara Gut and Austrian Anna Fenninger, winner of the super-G in Rosa Khutor.

lp/jw

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140217/olympics-shiffrin-eyes-giant-slalom-gold-vanessa-mae-takes-piste