Beijing: India’s only participant in the Winter Olympics, alpine skier Arif Khan, finished 45th in the giant slalom here on Sunday.
The 31-year-old from Baramulla district of Jammu and Kashmir clocked a combined time of 2 minutes 47.24 seconds from two races in difficult weather conditions at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Center.
Arif Khan, which made its debut at the Winter Olympics, finished 53rd in Race 1 with a time of 1:22.35 out of 54 participants who managed to finish. As many as 33 skiers failed to finish Race 1, while two failed to start. Khan finished 85th in the starting list of 89 athletes from 62 countries.
Khan outperformed in Race 2 with a time of 1:24.89, finishing 44th out of 45 skiers able to complete the race. Nine skiers failed to complete Race 2, which was delayed by nearly four hours due to bad weather.
His combined time, finishing 45th overall, was 37.89 seconds behind gold winner Marco Odermatt of Switzerland, who clocked a combined time of 2:09.35.
Slovenian Zan Kranjec (2:09.54) and France’s Mathieu Faivre (2:10.69) took silver and bronze respectively.
Khan had clocked a combined time of 1:59.47 in the qualifying event for the Winter Olympics in Kolasin, Montenegro, last December.
Khan, the first Indian to qualify for two events in a Winter Olympics, will compete in the men’s slalom at the same venue on Wednesday.
“It is one of my dreams to be at the Winter Olympics and this is my first time. It really means a lot. It’s a great message back to our country, to our people to take up winter sports in the future,” Khan told Olympics.com.
“There were just millions of people watching me live at home. I tried my best to give the best I have. But the weather was uncertain, you couldn’t see much of how the slope was being used, but it was good.”
Poor visibility due to incessant snowfall hit the start of the event and conditions deteriorated as Race 1 progressed.
The second run was postponed due to bad weather, but conditions were better than the first when it started.
Despite a poor finish, it was India’s best ever performance in the men’s giant slalom at the Winter Olympics. Polish-born Jeremy Bujakowski, India’s first-ever Winter Olympian, had finished 65th in Grenoble 1968.
In giant slalom – an alpine skiing event – athletes ski down a slope as they pass between sets of “gates” made up of two plastic poles.
A skier runs two races and the competitor with the lowest combined time over the two courses is deemed the winner.
During the Beijing Games, the giant slalom took place on the 424 m long ‘Ice River’ track with a start height of 1925 m and a finish height of 1501 m.
Failure to pass between a gate in Run 1 considers a run as DNF (Did Not Finish) and such athlete cannot participate in the second run.
Missing a gate or crashing the course in Run 2 also earns a skier a DNF, making them ineligible for a position in the final standings.
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