Alpine skiing is the national sport in Austria, but the president of the nation’s ski federation is worried that the sport’s marquee event — the downhill — is at risk of being taken off the Olympic program as early as Beijing 2022.
“The athletes themselves refuse to believe it, but interest in the event is waning, and this is a real problem,” Austria ski federation president Peter Schrocksnadel said, according to Agence France-Presse.
Schrocksnadel said the downhill is not the best-suited discipline for TV.
At the Sochi Olympics, the men’s downhill start list included 50 skiers.
In downhill and super-G races at the World Cup, World Championships and Olympic level, the podium hopefuls are in the top 30 starters, with the medal favorites in the late teens and early 20s, but results aren’t official until the last skier goes.
“When you know that the best skiers come out of the gate from Nos. 16-25, you tune in from 12,” Schrocksnadel said, according to AFP, adding that Beijing’s 2022 mountain venue may pose a challenge to provide a strong downhill course.
The technical events of slalom and giant slalom are formatted differently with two runs instead of one. In the second run of slalom and giant slalom, the top 30 finishers from the first run go in reverse order, followed by the rest of the field in the order they finished the first run. The medals are determined once the 30th starter finishes.
Austria is home to the reigning Olympic men’s downhill champion, Matthias Mayer. Downhill is the preferred discipline of Lindsey Vonn, the 2010 Olympic champion in the event and a four-time World Cup overall champion.
The Alpine skiing World Cup season begins with women’s and men’s giant slaloms in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 24-25.
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