By Ross Cunningham
There will be two Irish athletes in action over the final weekend of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
Florence Bell will compete in the women’s slalom on Friday, while Conor Lyne will take to the slopes in the men’s version on Saturday.
Both will be hoping to improve on their disappointing outings in the giant slalom.
In atrocious weather conditions at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre, Bell crashed out of her giant slalom on Tuesday, while a similar fate befell Lyne 24 hours later.
The slowest of the alpine skiing disciplines, slalom skiing requires athletes to negotiate a course of tightly-packed control gates. Finesse and precision are prized above out-and-out speed in an event that regularly sees race favourites crash out. Like giant slalom, competitors race over two runs with the winner being the skier with the fastest aggregate time.
Bell, who is the first Irish athlete to have competed at both a youth and senior Winter Olympics, will be one of the later starters in the women’s race, with Friday’s action due to get underway at 12.45pm Irish time.
In 2010 she finished in 24th place in the girl’s slalom at the Winter Youth Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
Lyne’s slalom race is due to begin at 12.45pm on Saturday.
He had been nursing a shoulder injury sustained in training but was cleared to start in this week’s giant slalom.
After the race he tweeted: "I'm disappointed that I didn't make it to the finish today. However, I'm happy I made it to the start. I'm proud that I'm an Olympian now."
Lyne, who turns 21 on Monday, was Ireland’s flagbearer at the opening ceremony and is the country’s most experienced competitor athlete at the Games.
In 2011, he competed in his first Alpine World Ski Championships in Germany, finishing 75th in the men’s giant slalom.
Last year, in Austria, he qualified for the second run of the giant slalom and achieving a 52nd place finish.
Born in England, his parents hail from Kerry and Limerick. At a young age his family moved to Logan in Utah. Fellow Utah resident, Ted Ligety of the United States, claimed the gold medal in the giant slalom on Wednesday.
Patrick-Paul Schwarzacher-Joyce’s 15th place finish in the combined event in Nagano in 1998 remains Ireland’s best Olympic alpine result.
Saturday’s race brings the curtain down on an eventful alpine skiing program at the Games. History was made in the women’s downhill when Slovenia’s Tina Maze and Switzerland’s Dominique Gisen shared the gold medal. Ahead of the weekend, Austria top the medals table in alpine skiing with five medals, including two golds from the women’s super-g and the men’s downhill.