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SIDEBAR South Korean fans flock to Olympic debut of alpine team event

Europe, Europa
24.02.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Pyeongchang, South Korea (dpa) - Local fans and athletes gave the new alpine team event the thumbs up at the Olympics on Saturday, despite the fact that a number of big names were missing from the start list.

Team racing has been held at the alpine skiing world championships since 2005, but the format, which which sees mixed teams of four skiers line up against each other and race head to head, was making its Olympic debut in Pyeongchang.

On the short Rainbow 2 course at Yongpyong Alpine Centre on Saturday, Switzerland came out on top, winning the big final comfortably 3-1 against Austria, without Marcel Hirscher, while Norway picked up bronze.

Even the US team, which was missing big names Mikaela Shiffrin and Lindsey Vonn and was knocked out in the first round by the British, seemed to enjoy the experience.

"I think it‘s a lot of fun," US skier David Chodounsky said after his race. "The turnout has been really good.

"The crowd can see exactly what‘s happening, who‘s faster, who‘s not - because it‘s head to head."

And the crowd, mainly South Korean, came in droves on Saturday, despite many of the hardcore alpine skiing fans seemingly giving the race a miss.

Cho Soon Ja had organized a tour group to the race, her first live experience of the Games. She said she liked the parallel skiing format because "it always gives me someone to cheer for."

Teenager Jaehyun Park, who had come to the race with his friend, said that the competition between skiers also attracted him to come. "Normal ski racing doesn‘t have that sort of thrill," he said.

Park said that South Korea being knocked out in the first heat of the day by the eventual silver medallists Austria did not bother him too much either. "We didn‘t expect them to do well," he added.

Among the skiers, both those on the podium and off it, there was a clear sense of happiness, to win and compete as a team, in a sport that is normally very individual.

For Jonathan Nordbotten, who finished third with Norway after they beat France in the day‘s so-called "small final," the format‘s chance of survival is down to media and the fans.

"(It‘s) most important that the publicity is good," he said. "People are starting to take it more and more seriously, especially now when you see it is an Olympic event too."

"I can‘t answer for the other people that didn‘t want to participate. It‘s a tight schedule and they have probably been here a long time so they want to get back and focus on the World Cup schedule."

"But I think it‘s a fun event and we really enjoyed it," he said.

 

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