YANQING, China (Reuters) – Swirling winds around the steep slopes of Yanqing have been a hot topic among the alpine skiing contingent at the Beijing Games and double Olympic gold medallist Mikaela Shiffrin said she hoped no one would get blown off the mountain.
The American, who is aiming to compete in all five alpine skiing events in China, got her first taste of the conditions on Friday and came away with a newfound appreciation of just how much of a challenge awaits.
“There’s going to be a huge element of just crossing your fingers in these Games,” Shiffrin said. “It’s some of the steepest terrain I’ve ever experienced in my life.
“Ideally nobody is going to face one of the really big gusts when you nearly get blown off the mountain.
“Skiing speed when you’re getting air off terrain … that becomes not only challenging but also very dangerous.
“It’s a little bit of a bummer when you go into a very important series of races knowing there are some factors that are normally not so extreme in any other races we do that could really play a role in how the results pan out.”
Shiffrin, 26, won slalom gold at the Sochi Games eight years ago, and gold in the giant slalom in Pyeongchang in 2018.
Widely considered the best alpine skier of her generation, she is expected to add to her tally of three Olympic medals and said her chances of doing that were “not bad”.
“If you want to get a medal here, you have to ski well because the surface is legit, the hills are not easy. It’s going to require skiing that’s really on point,” Shiffrin added.
“Success is getting here and getting through it.
“There’s going to be some level of disappointment if I walk away with no medal, but I don’t think it’s possible to walk away without some level of disappointment about something.
“It’s impossible to have a perfect two weeks.”
(Reporting by Simon Jennings; Editing by Peter Rutherford)