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Skier’s bronze medal in men’s alpine combined comes as a shock, but the race wasn’t the only highlight of his day

James (Jack) Crawford of Team Canada competes on Feb. 10 at the men's alpine combined downhill event in Yanqing, China, during the Beijing Winter Olympics.Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images


One guy had to borrow a pair of downhill skis from a teammate. Another guy hadn’t skied slalom – not even for kicks – in a year and a half. The last guy is a Canadian achieving his “childhood gream” (sic).

Meet your men’s alpine combined medalists.

The alpine combined is what it sounds like – downhill plus slalom equals a time. It is nobody’s main job. But since it represents an Olympic medal, it’s something everyone wants to try out every four years.

The Canadian is James (Jack) Crawford, a 24-year-old from that noted skiing hothouse, Toronto.

Mr. Crawford has been quietly (and now loudly) putting in one of Canada’s notable performances at these Games. He placed sixth in the super-G here and fourth in the downhill. That would already have been a breakout showing for this country. A star in the making.

But on Thursday, he put the two things together. He was in second place after the downhill portion.

“A little nervous,” Mr. Crawford said at that moment. “Hopefully, I can channel my inner slalom skier from back in the day.” Just like they teach it at the high-performance academy!

Mr. Crawford was seventh in the slalom, which combined to give him a shock bronze. He is the second Canadian to win any sort of Olympic alpine medal this century.

Afterward, Mr. Crawford was stunned.

People use that word a lot to describe athletes just after they’ve done something incredible or awful. But few have ever come out so befuddled by a sudden, wonderful turn in his life than Mr. Crawford.

Aleksander Aamodt Kilde of Norway, who won silver, and Johannes Ewald Strolz of Austria, who won gold, join Crawford on the podium.Christian Hartmann/Reuters

The other two skiers joining him at the big table already had varying levels of familiarity with the spotlight.

Austrian gold medalist Johannes Strolz is the son of Hubert Strolz, who won the alpine combined at the Calgary Games in 1988. As with his son, it was almost the only significant thing he ever won. The junior Mr. Strolz was cut from the Austrian team and nearly quit sport a year ago. During his time in the wilderness, he got a job as a policeman.

Mr. Strolz is a slalom specialist. He didn’t bring his own downhill skis to China. He had to borrow a pair from his teammate and three-time Olympic gold medalist Matthias Mayer.

“They were rockets,” Mr. Strolz said. Obviously.

The silver medalist was a suddenly very famous face from skiing. Norwegian Aleksander Aamodt Kilde already has one medal here in Beijing. But he is best known now as the boyfriend of American superstar, Mikaela Shiffrin.

According to Mr. Kilde, the last time he skied slalom was August, 2020. His knees hurt and he wasn’t even sure he would do the event before Thursday morning. He credited his slalom technique in part to watching videos of Ms. Shiffrin and mimicking her “cleverness.”

Crawford prepares to put on his bronze medal.Luca Bruno/The Associated Press

The interviews with the gold and silver medalists were extensive, multilingual and easygoing. By contrast, Mr. Crawford’s interview had the air of the cops showing up at your door to ask you a few questions.

When the official running the news conference lobbed up a softie in the neighbourhood of, “How does it feel?” Mr. Crawford stared at him for a bit, dazed. “Pretty good” was how he eventually started off. Which is pretty good.

Then it started to go wobbly. “Ah, it’s, ah, it’s been a long time, ah, grinding on, ah … oh God, I don’t know what to say. My brain’s kind of all over the place.”

Totally understandable. Mr. Crawford took a minute. He sucked in some air. “It’s always been a childhood gream aaaaahh ....” and here he suggested an act which ought not be done in public and can’t be printed in this newspaper. “Sorry. I’m nervous.”

Up until that point, all the Eurocentric, skiing-specific journalists in the room were busy ignoring Mr. Crawford, trying to hit their deadlines. Every head suddenly turned and the room burst into delighted laughter. Despite his best efforts, Mr. Kilde didn’t get that sort of laugh.

Mr. Crawford didn’t have much to add after that. He fled the podium. But his work was done. For the second time on Thursday, Jack Crawford had made himself a Canadian skiing legend.


How does Olympic alpine skiing work? A visual guide

ALPINE SKIING

BEIJING 2022

SCHEDULE

Qualification

Medal

FEBRUARY

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

Alpine skiing is one of the signature events at the Winter Olympics, with athletes flying down the mountain at breathtaking speeds. Olympic skiers can reach speeds of 128 km/h to 150 km/h as the crouching position allows racers to minimize air resistance. 

Men’s and women’s alpine skiing debuted at Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936 with the alpine combined event comprising a downhill and a slalom run

All competitors must wear a crash helmet for the race

Racing suit

Goggles

Gloves

Gate

Shin guards

Skis with

ski brakes

Ski poles to guide turns, help skier maintain balance

COMPETITION FORMAT

Against-the-clock format, competitors attempt to cross the finish line in the fastest time

TECHNICAL EVENTS

Each skier completes two runs – not revealed until raceday – with no practice runs. The winner is the skier with the quickest combined times.

Slalom

Giant slalom

Gate width

4m-6m

Gates

45-75

Gate width

4m-8m

Gates

28-68

Elevation/

vertical

drop

Gate

distance

0.75m-13m

Gate

distance

Min. 10m

Men

180-220

Men

300-450

Women

140-200

Women

300-400

ELEVATION DROP — IN METRES

SPEED EVENTS

Skiers make a single run, with the quickest time taking gold. Speeds reach 130 km/h to 160 km/h. Downhill practice runs are not only allowed but required

Super-G

Downhill

Gates delineate racing line

Gate width

6m-12m

Gates

28-45

Open gate

Closed

gate

Gate

distance

Min. 25m

Gate

width

Min. 8m

Men

400-650

Men

800-1,100

Women

400-600

Women

450-800

ELEVATION DROP — IN METRES

OTHER EVENTS

Alpine combined

Consists of a downhill run followed by slalom

Competitors must complete a successful downhill run to advance to the slalom run

Mixed team parallel

Teams comprise two men and two women

Two teams compete simultaneously against each other in a parallel slalom race

SOURCE: REUTERS

ALPINE SKIING

BEIJING 2022

SCHEDULE

Qualification

Medal

FEBRUARY

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

Alpine skiing is one of the signature events at the Winter Olympics, with athletes flying down the mountain at breathtaking speeds. Olympic skiers can reach speeds of 128 km/h to 150 km/h as the crouching position allows racers to minimize air resistance. 

Men’s and women’s alpine skiing debuted at Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936 with the alpine combined event comprising a downhill and a slalom run

All competitors must wear a crash helmet for the race

Racing suit

Goggles

Gloves

Gate

Shin guards

Skis with

ski brakes

Ski poles to guide turns, help skier maintain balance

COMPETITION FORMAT

Against-the-clock format, competitors attempt to cross the finish line in the fastest time

TECHNICAL EVENTS

Each skier completes two runs – not revealed until raceday – with no practice runs. The winner is the skier with the quickest combined times.

Slalom

Giant slalom

Gate width

4m-6m

Gates

45-75

Gate width

4m-8m

Gates

28-68

Elevation/

vertical

drop

Gate

distance

0.75m-13m

Gate

distance

Min. 10m

Men

180-220

Women

140-200

Men

300-450

Women

300-400

ELEVATION DROP — IN METRES

SPEED EVENTS

Skiers make a single run, with the quickest time taking gold. Speeds reach 130 km/h to 160 km/h. Downhill practice runs are not only allowed but required

Super-G

Downhill

Gate width

6m-12m

Gates

28-45

Gates delineate racing line

Open gate

Closed

gate

Gate

distance

Min. 25m

Gate

width

Min. 8m

Men

400-650

Men

800-1,100

Women

400-600

Women

450-800

ELEVATION DROP — IN METRES

OTHER EVENTS

Alpine combined

Consists of a downhill run followed by slalom

Competitors must complete a successful downhill run to advance to the slalom run

Mixed team parallel

Teams comprise two men and two women

Two teams compete simultaneously against each other in a parallel slalom race

SOURCE: REUTERS

ALPINE SKIING

BEIJING 2022

FEBRUARY

SCHEDULE

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

13

14

15

16

17

18

19

20

Qualification

Medal

Alpine skiing is one of the signature events at the Winter Olympics, with athletes flying down the mountain at breathtaking speeds. Olympic skiers can reach speeds of 128 km/h to 150 km/h as the crouching position allows racers to minimize air resistance. 

Men’s and women’s alpine skiing debuted at Garmisch-Partenkirchen 1936 with the alpine combined event comprising a downhill and a slalom run

Ski poles to guide turns,

help skier maintain

balance

All competitors must

wear a crash helmet

for the race

Racing

suit

Goggles

Gate

Gloves

Shin guards

Skis with ski brakes

COMPETITION FORMAT

Against-the-clock format, competitors attempt to cross the finish line in the fastest time

TECHNICAL EVENTS

Each skier completes two runs – not revealed until raceday – with no practice runs. The winner is the skier with the quickest combined times.

SPEED EVENTS

Skiers make a single run, with the quickest time taking gold. Speeds reach 130 km/h to 160 km/h. Downhill practice runs are not only allowed but required

Super-G

Downhill

Slalom

Giant slalom

Gate width

6m-12m

Gates

28-45

Gate width

4m-6m

Gates

45-75

Gate width

4m-8m

Gates

28-68

Gates delineate racing line

Open gate

Elevation/

vertical

drop

Closed

gate

Gate

distance

Min. 25m

Gate

width

Min. 8m

Gate

distance

0.75m-13m

Gate

distance

Min. 10m

Men

400-650

Men

800-1,100

Women

400-600

Women

450-800

Men

180-220

Women

140-200

Men

300-450

Women

300-400

ELEVATION DROP — IN METRES

ELEVATION DROP — IN METRES

OTHER EVENTS

Alpine combined

Mixed team parallel

Consists of a downhill run followed by slalom

Competitors must complete a successful downhill run to advance to the slalom run

Teams comprise two men and two women

Two teams compete simultaneously against each other in a parallel slalom race

SOURCE: REUTERS

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