Russia's top skier needs a World Cup result before Olympics
By GRAHAM DUNBAR
Jan. 19, 2018
GENEVA (AP) — Russia's best Alpine skier has a big worry ahead of the Pyeongchang Olympics, and it's got nothing to do with the fallout from the Sochi doping scandal.
Alexander Khoroshilov told The Associated Press he has not been distracted waiting for an official IOC invitation to join a team of Russians that will be allowed to compete next month in South Korea.
What really concerns him is staying in the elite top 15 of slalom racers after a season-long slump in results.
Khoroshilov is heading to Austria for two World Cup races — in Kitzbuehel on Sunday and the raucous Schladming night slalom on Tuesday — ranked No. 15 and with little room for error.
"If you would like to have good results in the Olympics you need a really good start number for it," Khoroshilov told the AP in a recent interview. "First, we are working on how to fix this problem. Then we will start to think about Olympics."
The Russian had a top-seven ranking to start the season, which meant he could be drawn with the No. 1 start bib — a position that gets the best use of a clean snow surface in the opening run.
Khoroshilov earned that elite status with three podium finishes in each of the past three World Cup seasons, including a January 2015 win in Schladming. He missed a medal by only 0.12 seconds at the 2017 world championships.
Such consistency made Khoroshilov a contender for a first Olympic medal in men's Alpine skiing for Russia or the Soviet Union. Women's silver and bronze medals were won in 1994 and 1956, respectively.
A season-best result of 19th in six races has left the 33-year-old from Russia's east coast on the edge. He was second-fastest in the first run in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, but then skied out.
Ranked No. 15, he can still be drawn with bib No. 8. Still, if his ranking falls again, it only gets tougher to find a way back racing on rutted, cut-up courses.
"We're not in panic. In training, I still have a good feeling. I am still in good shape," said Khoroshilov, who dislikes the snow in the warm winter.
"Like sugar," he said. "I push too much maybe sometimes on the outside ski and it doesn't work in these snow conditions."
Khoroshilov should get the icy track he likes in front of 50,000 fans in Schladming, his last scheduled race before the Olympic slalom on Feb. 22 — if selected.
He should find out next week if two International Olympic Committee panels handling Russian entries have invited him.
"In Alpine skiing I have never heard a lot about the doping scandal as like in cycling or maybe cross-country (skiing), this kind of tough sports," said Khoroshilov, a three-time Olympian who would have to compete in Pyeongchang without a national flag or anthem.
"Anyway, we go," he said, "but of course we are not super-satisfied that we go as 'Olympic Athlete from Russia.'"
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org