(photo credit: )
The Israeli delegation was all smiles yesterday at the Sestriere Colle mountain. Michael Renzhin, the first Israeli to compete at the Alpine Skiing discipline, finished in 32nd place, only two places away from his goal of reaching the top 30.
Following the race Renzhin, 28, spoke of the pride he had representing his nation. "It's a great result not only for me, but for Israel," he said "It's a great result for a country's first time at this competition.
The giant slalom, in which Renzhin competed yesterday, was the weakest of his two events. He has yet to compete in his strongest event, the slalom, which will take place on Saturday.
It was a dramatic day at the alpine skiing: 82 skiers participated at the first run, and an almost unprecedented 34 competitors did not manage to finish the steep course.
Renzhin was ranked 36th after the first run, marking a time of 1 minute 28.97 seconds, a little more than 12 seconds behind the surprise first round leader, Canadian Francois Bourque.
"It was a very hard course," said Renzhin after the first run, delighted that he managed to complete it, a task almost half of the competitors failed in.
"After the first 30 competitors skied, there was no snow left, we were skiing on ice. I should have practiced skiing on ice more, and I think that that's the reason why many people didn't finish. They weren't prepared for that."
Out of the remaining 47 competitors, 41 finished the second run. Renzhin's total time from the two runs was 3:00.41, 25.41 seconds behind the gold medal winner, Benjamin Raich from Austria.
"It was very hard again," Renzhin said after the competition ended. "Again, we had to deal with a very icy slope and it made it very difficult. I'm very happy with the result. I was playing safe, I wanted to make sure that we get that result. Now in my other competition, the slalom, I can go faster and take more risks, we already have a result."
Renzhin received loud support from the crowd, who cheered for all the competitors from the countries where skiing is uncommon, not just Israel but some more exotic spots like Senegal and Madagscar.
There weren't many Israelis in the 9,000-seat stands, but the Israeli delegation officials waved an Israeli flag for Renzhin.
He will receive greater support in his next race as the ice dancers finished their competition last night and plan to attend it.
The second run was dramatic. The top skiers demonstrated their abilities and battled for a place on the podium. American Bode Miller, who is yet to win a medal at the Torino 2006 Winter Olympics, led for the most of the second run after finishing 12th in the first run.
A double show from Austria, Raich who won the gold, and the veteran skier Hermann Maier who grabbed the bronze pushed Miller down to sixth place, which he shared with Norway's Askel Lund Svindal. 33-year old French Joel Chenal won the silver medal.