From the moment spiky-haired Austrian Matthias Mayer set the cat
amongst the pigeons with a gold in the men's downhill, the shocks
have come thick and fast on Rosa Khutor's Olympic pistes.
Swiss Dominique Gisin, without a sniff of a World Cup podium all
season, came from nowhere to share gold after an unprecedented dead
heat with Tina Maze in the women's downhill.
Her similarly obscure compatriot Sandro Viletta eclipsed Ligety,
Bode Miller and Aksel Lund Svindal to win the men's super-combined
and on Sunday Norway's Kjetil Jansrud claimed a thrilling victory in
While German favorite Maria Hoefl-Riesch nailed the women's
super-combined and Austria's Anna Fenninger finally got her skis
running to win the super-G, the most predictable aspect of the first
week of racing has been the spring-like sunshine.
Course workers battled manfully to stop the slopes turning to slush
during the speed events and Olympic organizers breathed a sigh of
relief on Sunday when racing was completed in the nick of time
before fog rolled in.
The focus is now on the technical events which start on Tuesday with
the women's giant slalom, followed by the men's on Wednesday. The
Olympic program concludes with the slaloms in which Mikaela Shiffrin
and Marcel Hirscher should shine.
With snow and weather conditions unlikely to play such a role from
here on in, it could be time for the favorites to restore order to
Ligety will hope so after finishing eighth in the super-combined and
14th in the super-G, having arriving in southern Russia as world
champion in both.
Wednesday's giant slalom, which he also won at Schladming to become
the first skier to scoop three golds at a single world
championships, offers his best chance of redemption.
"It's been a little disappointing and frustrating so far, but every
event is different," Ligety said. "I'm just going to push hard on
the race on Wednesday, and I know where my skiing can be.
"In this season I've had a lot of ups and downs ... but still put
together some really fast results on the giant slaloms. So I don't
think my results so far will have much effect on the results to come
in the giant slalom.
"For sure there are other guys who can be fast, but I think myself,
(Marcel) Hirscher and (Alexis) Pinturault are the favorites."
He will not have to worry about former giant slalom world champion
Svindal though, after the Norwegian pulled out of the rest of the
Games on Monday.
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Germany's Viktoria Rebensburg will start Tuesday's giant slalom as
reigning champion but, unlike Ligety, is not expecting too much
after missing two months of the season with illness.
"I see myself now a bit in the hunter role, because the season has
been difficult," she said.
Favorites will include American former gold medalist Julia Mancuso,
Slovenian all-rounder Maze and Rebensburg's team mate Hoefl-Riesch
who is running out of time to add the gold she needs to equal Janica
Kostelic's Olympic ski record of four.
Many of the slalom specialists have only just set foot in Russia,
giving them an edge, according to Fenninger.
"In GS, I have no realistic medal chances. It's not my major
motivation," she said after winning the super-G.
"In super-combined my slalom was quite good. We'll have to see about
the slalom specialists — they've had their home comforts and better
What awaits the late arrivals might not be quite to their liking,
however, with soft snow conditions likely to continue.
"I'm just trying to get to grips with the summer snow," Austria's
Kathrin Zettel told Reuters after her first practice. "But it is
As the Games draw to a close all eyes will be on American teenager
Mikaela Shiffrin, one of the most consistent performers in the
slaloms in this season's World Cup.
Shiffrin leads the slalom rankings with three wins this season but
she is taking nothing for granted, a sensible policy after what has
happened so far.
"It's hard for the best skier or the fastest skier to actually win,"
she told a news conference.
"It's different for the ones who people think they don't have a
chance. It's easier for them because they never had that chance. All
of a sudden, at the Olympics, they are ready to go just as they
always have been."
(Editing by Mitch Phillips, Keith Weir
and Robert Woodward)
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