India's lone participant in the Winter Olympics, alpine skier Arif Khan, finished 45th in the giant slalom event here on Sunday.
The 31-year-old from Baramulla district in Jammu and Kashmir clocked a combined time of 2 minute 47.24 seconds from two races in difficult weather conditions at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre.
Khan, who was making his Winter Olympics debut, ended at 53rd in Race 1 with a time of 1:22.35 out of the 54 competitors who could finish it. As many as 33 skiers could not finish Race 1 while two did not start. Khan queued up 85th in the start list of 89 athletes from 62 nations.
Khan did better in Race 2 as he clocked 1:24.89, ending at 44th out of 45 skiers who could complete it. Nine skiers failed to finish Race 2 which was delayed by nearly four hours due to bad weather.
His combined time, which saw him finish 45th overall, was 37.89 seconds behind gold winner Marco Odermatt of Switzerland who clocked a combined time of 2:09.35.
Slovenia's Zan Kranjec (2:09.54) and France's Mathieu Faivre (2:10.69) clinched the silver and bronze respectively.
Khan had clocked a combined time of 1:59.47 in the Winter Olympics qualification event at Kolasin, Montenegro in December last year.
Khan, the first Indian to qualify for two events in a Winter Olympics, will compete in men's slalom at the same venue on Wednesday.
"It's one of my dreams to be at Winter Olympics and this is my first time. It really means a lot. It's a great message back to our country, to our people to join winter sports in future," Khan was quoted as saying by 'Olympics.com'.
"There were like millions of people watching me live back home. I was trying my best to give the best I have got. But the weather was uncertain, you couldn't see much… like how the slope was used, but it was good." Low visibility due to incessant snowing hit the start of the event and conditions worsened as Race 1 progressed.
The second run was delayed due to bad weather but conditions were better than the first when it started.
Despite a poor finish, this was India's best-ever performance in men's giant slalom event at Winter Olympics. Polish-born Jeremy Bujakowski, India's first-ever Winter Olympian, had finished 65th at Grenoble 1968.
In giant slalom -- an Alpine skiing event -- athletes ski down a slope as they pass between sets of 'gates' which consist of two plastic poles.
A skier runs two races and the competitor with the lowest combined time across the two courses is deemed the winner.
In Beijing Games, the giant slalom event took place on the 424m 'Ice River' course with a start altitude of 1925m and finish altitude of 1501m.
Failure to pass between any one gate in Run 1 deems a run as DNF (Did Not Finish) and such an athlete can't participate in the second run.
Missing a gate or crashing off course in Run 2 also earns a skier a DNF, which makes them ineligible for a ranking in the final standings.
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