JEONGSEON, South Korea — Folks who only tune in to Alpine skiing every four years, when the Olympics roll around, are probably familiar with past gold medalists such as Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin. Fans of the sport know all about World Cup overall champions Marcel Hirscher and Aksel Lund Svindal.
There are, of course, plenty of other racers who are capable of winning medals — and will do so over the next couple of weeks. The men’s downhill scheduled for Sunday was postponed because of strong wind, making the women’s giant slalom on Monday the first Alpine medal race.
The recent history of the program’s first traditional event is particularly dotted with surprise winners: Five of the past 10 men to grab the gold had never won so much as a single World Cup downhill race. Last time, for example, it was Austria’s Matthias Mayer who came out of nowhere. Before beating Svindal, the now-retired Bode Miller and everyone else at the Sochi Games in 2014, Mayer had never finished first in 65 previous World Cup or world championship races of any sort; he’d never been better than fifth in a downhill.
“There’s always going to be a surprise or two,” said Svindal’s Norwegian teammate Kjetil Jansrud, who took the bronze behind Mayer and is among the favorites this time. “That’s the cool thing about dark horses: You don’t see them before they’re there.”
Or as Svindal put it at Saturday’s training session: “Your guess is as good as mine.”
Here is a handful of men and women in Alpine skiing who never have won an Olympic medal but could be better known to fans by the time the Pyeongchang Games are done:
BEAT FEUZ, Switzerland
A victory by Feuz, who turned 31 on Sunday, would not surprise anyone in the skiing world. He is, after all, the reigning world champion in the downhill and owns three World Cup wins and a pair of second-place finishes this season. At his lone previous Olympics, four years ago, he was still recovering from left knee problems and his best showing in three races was 13th.
DOMINIK PARIS, Italy
This is his third Olympics and he’s never fared better than 11th. But Paris was the silver medalist at the 2013 world championships and is a consistent contender on the World Cup circuit, winding up third in the downhill standings three times and sitting in that spot this season, too. He also won the downhill on home snow in Bormio in December and was second in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on Jan. 27.
WENDY HOLDENER, Switzerland
She might just be the biggest threat to Shiffrin’s pursuit of multiple gold medals in the technical events of slalom and giant slalom. Since failing to finish either of those races at the Sochi Olympics at age 20, Holdener has established herself as a top competitor, taking home a gold in the combined event and a silver in the slalom (behind Shiffrin) at last year’s world championships.
PETRA VLHOVA, Slovakia
Another potential challenger to Shiffrin, she was 18 — just like the American — at the Sochi Games, finishing no better than 19th. But she is now an established slalom racer, with two wins this season.
SOFIA GOGGIA, Italy
If Vonn does not win what would be her second Olympic downhill title, it might just be because Goggia earns a medal in her Winter Games debut at age 25. And she might become a real star, because her personality is as electric as her skiing. Goggia has won two World Cup downhills this season, along with a couple of second-place finishes. “We push each other. I know that she’s always going to give 110 percent when she’s racing,” Vonn said. “She’s crazy. Like me.”
AP Sports Writers Pat Graham and Graham Dunbar contributed to this report.
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