Sochi, Russia • A look at the sports for the Sochi Olympics:
After missing the first three Winter Olympics, Alpine skiing joined the program in 1936. Ten gold medals will be awarded in Sochi, five for men and five for women — downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super giant slalom (usually called super-G) and super combined.
STARS TO WATCH
With Lindsey Vonn out injured, the 18-year-old American many call "The Next Lindsey Vonn," Mikaela Shiffrin, will attract plenty of attention as the favorite to win the slalom. Maria Hoefl-Riesch of Germany, a double gold medalist at the 2010 Vancouver Games, and Lara Gut of Switzerland, who’ll be making her Olympic debut, could dominate other races. Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway already enjoys rock-star status in Europe, while 36-year-old Bode Miller, owner of five Olympic medals, and Ted Ligety, who won three titles at last year’s world championships, will also be ones to watch from the U.S. team.
DID YOU KNOW?
Austria has won a record 105 Alpine skiing medals at the Olympics, nearly twice as many as any other country. Switzerland ranks second with 56, followed by France with 43 and the United States with 39.
Like several other sports, biathlon has military origins with the combination of cross-country skiing and rifle shooting first becoming a common exercise for winter troops in northern countries during the second half of the 19th century. That also helps explain why countries like Norway, Russia and Sweden are still dominant. Biathlon has one of the busiest schedules on the Olympic program, with four individual events for both men and women, along with a relay. New for this year is a mixed relay.
STARS TO WATCH:
Martin Fourcade of France has been the top men’s biathlete in the last two years, winning three world championship titles in 2012 and the overall World Cup last season, and he is expected to add his first Olympic gold in Sochi. Emil Hegle Svendsen of Norway could well add to his two golds from Vancouver, as well. On the women’s side, expect Tora Berger of Norway and Darya Domracheva of Belarus to grab at least a couple of medals each.
DID YOU KNOW?
One of the all-time greats will be competing in the biathlon events in Sochi as Ole Einar Bjoerndalen aims to cap his storied career by making Olympic history. The 40-year-old Norwegian has six Olympic golds from previous games and needs two more to equal the Winter Games record. While Bjoerndalen hasn’t won an individual World Cup race in two years, Norway is one of the favorites in both the men’s and mixed relay — meaning he could well get there.
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