February 20, 2018 / 6:26 AM / 7 months ago

Olympics-Alpine skiing-What to look out for in the women's downhill race

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 20 (Reuters) - The downhill is the second women's speed event in the Alpine skiing programme in Pyeongchang and promises to deliver plenty of excitement. Four years ago in Sochi, it produced a remarkable tie for the gold medal.

Here is a short guide to this year's version at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre, which will take place at 11 a.m. local time on Wednesday (0200 GMT, 9 p.m. ET Tuesday.)

WHO ARE THE FAVOURITES?

American Lindsey Vonn, the most successful female World Cup racer of all time, is going for a second Olympic downhill gold medal at the age of 33, to add to the one she won in Vancouver in 2010. She missed the last Games in Sochi through injury. Her chief rival is 25-year-old Sofia Goggia of Italy, who leads her in the World Cup standings this season.

The shock victory of Czech Ester Ledecka in the other speed race, the super-G, has shown, however, that anything is possible. Switzerland's Laura Gut and Michelle Gisin, Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein and Austria's team of Cornielia Huetter, Ramona Siebenhofer and Anna Veith could be challengers.

WHICH COUNTRIES USUALLY DOMINATE?

In recent history, no single nation has stood out. At the last five Olympics, the downhill has been won by athletes from six different countries. That came about because of a dead-heat in 2014 between Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland, both of whom were awarded gold medals. Dominique's sister Michelle has a chance of emulating her on Wednesday. But Switzerland, Austria and Germany all have a fine pedigree.

HOW IS THE JEONGSEON COURSE SET UP?

Until South Korea won the right to host the Games in 2011, it was a bare mountain. The course was created from scratch by Bernhard Russi of Switzerland, the 1972 Olympic champion. At 2,775 metres in length, with a vertical drop of 730 metres, it is fractionally shorter and less steep than the men's version. (Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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