PYEONGCHANG, South Korea: As Marcel Hirscher streaked to another Olympic gold on Sunday, a column of skiers from less traditional alpine nations snaked their way down the course a long way behind.

The Olympic giant slalom traditionally brings together the biggest melting pot of alpine skiers and there was no exception at the Pyeongchang Games.

Braving the tricky Rainbow 1 course were 110 skiers from a staggering 69 countries, entertaining the rowdy 4,000-strong crowd with some excellent skiing in bright sunshine.

"I haven't met with him," Pakistan's Muhammad Karim said of his piste hero Hirscher, who also won gold in Tuesday alpine combined.

"He's a perfect player, very nice on skis, very balanced and winning a lot of competitions. That's why I like him."

Apart from Karim, who eventually finished 72nd, racers in colourful catsuits and helmets from Albania, Israel, Cyprus, Iran, Bolivia, Denmark, Mexico and Luxembourg competed against those from Iceland, Turkey, South Africa, the Philippines, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Malaysia and Eritrea, for boasting rights towards the bottom of the field.

There were two North Koreans, buoyed by a squadron of flag-waving, chanting cheerleaders, prim and proper in matching red and white outfits.

"That gave me strength," grinned Kang Song Il, 110th and final competitor in the first leg down the testing Rainbow 1 course.

He eventually finished in 74th, a huge 44 seconds behind Hirscher, but ahead of teammate Choe Myong Gwang, who looked a little overwhelmed when faced with the array of red and blue gates lining the polished course.

"I just skied with the hope of bringing our dear leader the good news of victory," said Kang.

"I just hoped I could do more than those who fell."

Kang said he trained "nine hours a day" with "many coaches", his teammate Choe hailing his own descent "calm and courageous" even though he came in last, 54 seconds behind Hirscher.

- Little recognition -

Hirscher is feted in Austria as one of the country's favourite sporting sons. Six consecutive World Cup overall titles, based around 55 individual victories, have been the bedrock for a stellar career that has brought him fame and riches.

For Karim, however, it is a different story, the Pakistani admitting that he's hardly a household name in his own hometown of Naltar, where he learned to ski aged four on wooden planks carved by his uncle.

"The people in Pakistan are not so interested in skiing, it's too much cricket, they're crazy about that," said Karim, his country's flag bearer at the opening ceremony.

"Some of the people in my town know about me, many not."

While Karim struggles with funding for overseas training, with snow at the Naltar and Malam Jabba resorts not hard enough and the slopes not steep enough, others have followed different paths to the Olympics.

London-born Israeli teenager Itamar Biran came in 49th, 15.67sec off Hirscher, and put his love of skiing down to his family's love of mountain 'vacation village' holidays.

"Israelis like Club Med," the 19-year-old laughed. "From the age of two or three years old, I was taken on Club Med holidays where we skied, then we got a place in Switzerland and skiing became more serious."

"I've already competed in two world championships, but it's an incredible experience to come here and be close up with the top athletes, not just on the slopes but to see how they eat, train, what they do in the gym," he said.

Rich or poor, underfunded or not, Puerto Rico's Charles Flaherty, just 17, summed up the Olympic spirt for many athletes.

"It's just great to be here. It's out of this world, I had so much fun!" he said.

"I'm happy I finished. We came here looking for two runs and I got two runs, so that's as much as I can ask for."