February 11, 2018 / 4:42 AM / 5 months ago

Olympics-Alpine skiing-Shiffrin faces stiff competition in first race

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 11 (Reuters) - Mikaela Shiffrin's highly-anticipated Pyeongchang Olympic campaign will face its first test on Monday in the women's Alpine skiing giant slalom, even if she is not necessarily the favorite to win.

Despite lofty expectations, the 22-year-old slalom gold medalist finished off the giant slalom podium in Sochi in 2014, a half second behind winner Tina Maze.

Shiffrin will not have to worry about Maze on Monday as the Slovenian has since retired, but she will face speedy German Viktoria Rebensburg, who won gold in Vancouver in 2010 and bronze four years ago.

Another threat is France's Tessa Worley, a giant slalom specialist who won gold at the world championships last year and won the World Cup event just before the Olympics in Lenzerheide, finishing two seconds ahead of Shiffrin, who was seventh.

Despite recent struggles Shiffrin has improved in the giant slalom since Sochi and her impressive 10 World Cup victories this season include two giant slalom wins, in Kranjska Gora and Courchevel, as well as two other podium finishes.

She has also added speed events to her repertoire and with her maiden World Cup win in downhill and strong finishes in super-G events this season, the world's best all-around skier said she is eager to get the competition underway.

"I can't wait to race actually because I really like the conditions here," she told reporters about the upcoming technical races at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre.

"I'm ready to go." (Editing by Greg Stutchbury)

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