Punishing on the knees and rewarding for an athlete who is flexible, slalom and giant slalom are two Winter Olympic skiing sports that require successfully completing an obstacle course in the least possible time.

India’s Arif Khan has qualified for both events and has stated that a finish in the Top-30 would be an achievement. Arif’s giant slalom event starts early on Sunday (February 13)

Alpine skiing is a type of ski sport that is made up of five different events — the downhill, Super G, Alpine combined, slalom and giant slalom. Various iterations of the sport have existed in history — be it the 1767 Norwegian military competition that involved skiing downhill with trees as obstacles or the evolution to ‘hill races’ in the late 1800s where skiers would take part in cross-country, slalom, and other events with the same skis.

The modern-day iteration of slalom skiing was ratified in 1922 by Arnold Lunn for the British National Ski Championships. Fourteen years later, these changes were brought into the 1936 Winter Olympics in Germany.

A cascading slope of snow is fixed with highly flexible red and blue plastic poles (gates) across a fixed course. The course has anywhere between 55-75 gates for men and 40-60 for women. The height from top to bottom of the course is usually between 180-220 m for men.

Skiers are supposed to start at the top of the hill and in the shortest time, navigate their way between the poles to reach the finish line. In both events, the skier has a chance to put up a time that enters them in the Top 30 and post this, gets another chance to put up a winning time.

Arif has said previously that he’s looking to break into the Top 30 but his best position till date at a World Championship has been 45th.

“I have been training over a couple of years seriously and my expectation is to be in the world’s top 30. To be in the top 30 is like medal winners in the world,” he had said before leaving for Beijing.