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Everything You Need to Know About Alpine Skiing

 Venue
 1994 Golds
 How It Works
 Critical Moment
 History
 Schedule
 U.S. Outlook
 Others to Watch
 Looking Back at Lillehammer
 Gold Medalists
 Trivia

Venue: With the majestic Northern Japanese Alps serving as the backdrop, the downhill and Super G events will be held at the ski area, an existing course in Hakuba Village that is about 3 km long, with three jumps and high-speed turns. Controversy about the length of the course finally was settled in early December, when organizers agreed to raise the starting point to make the run longer and more challenging. The original starting point was chosen so as not to encroach on protected parkland. Now the course will start at an elevation of 5,791 feet, about 279 feet higher than originally planned.

The men's and women's slalom events will take place existing courses at Shiga Kogen, one of the world's largest ski resorts, in Yamanouchi Town. The men's and women's giant slalom will be held at Mount Higashidate, which is in the central part of Shiga Kogen and reaches an elevation of 6,529 feet. The course cuts through a dense forest and offers steep slopes and varied terrain.

The men's and women's slalom and combined slalom will be held on the southeastern slope of Mount Yakebitai, which rises to 2,763 feet. The high altitude and cool temperature makes for ideal powder conditions.

1994 Golds: Men: downhill (Tommy Moe, United States); slalom (Thomas Stangassinger, Austria); giant slalom (Markus Wasmeier, Germany); Super G (Markus Wasmeier, Germany); combined (Lasse Kjus, Norway). Women: downhill (Katja Seizinger, Germany); slalom (Vreni Schneider, Switzerland); giant slalom (Deborah Compagnoni, Italy); Super G (Diann Roffe-Steinrotter, United States); combined (Pernilla Wiberg, Austria).

How It Works: Fully integrated into the Olympic program in 1948, Alpine skiing is made up of technical events — slalom and giant slalom — and speed events — downhill and super giant slalom.
slalom
The Washington Post
 Slalom: The slalom consists of two runs in one day down two different courses on the same slope. The winner has the fastest combined time. Both ski tips and feet must pass through each gate, so the skier's key to success is tight, controlled turning. Most skiers aim to put only their feet through the gates, pushing the gate poles aside with their bodies. The slalom course must have 55-75 gates for men, 45-65 for women on a tight, steep course in which gates can be less than three feet apart. Gates are set both horizontal and vertical to the slope, requiring different types of maneuvers. Competitors may side-step up the course before the competition but get no practice runs.
giant slalom
The Washington Post
 Giant Slalom: The giant slalom is a looser, faster version of the slalom. The course is changed between the first and second runs. A competitor may side-step down the course before the event but is disqualified if he or she practices a turn or goes through a gate. The number of gates varies with the vertical drop of the course; in this Winter Olympics, the men will have 56-70 gates and the women will have 46-58.
Equipment: Many slalom and giant slalom skiers wear protective gear on their heads, shins, arms and knees to allow them to buffer contact with the gates. Their poles are straight.
downhill
The Washington Post
 Downhill: The longest, steepest, fastest event is the downhill, where skiers reach speeds near 80 mph. Each skier takes only one run down the course, and the fastest wins. But the skiers will not be surprised by the course: All are required to participate in three official training runs. The course is marked by a few gates, which are placed as necessary to control speed, and padding or fencing may also line the edges of the course for safety.
 Super-G, short for super giant slalom: Although the Super-G is primarily a speed event, competitors are required to maneuver through a series of gates (at least 35 men; 30 for women). Contestants are disqualified if both feet do not pass through each gate. As
Super-G
The Washington Post
in the downhill, skiers have only one run down the course in competition, but there is a slope inspection before the event where skiers try to learn the course, hoping to avoid too-wide turns that cost valuable time.
Equipment: Downhill and Super-G skiers must wear helmets. Their poles are curved to eliminate wind resistance when hold close to the body. Their boots are raised higher off their skis and angled more severely than normal boots to assist in the low crouch.

tuck

tuck

tuck
KRT Graphics
Critical Moment: Downhill skiing is the fastest of the Alpine events, with skiers reaching speeds of 80 mph. Here's how skiers maintain aerodynamic tuck while negotiating sharp turns, bumps and ice:
 Tuck position: Skier crouches with upper body parallel to ground, poles tucked under arms close to body, hands together in front.
 Result: The more a skier stays in the tuck, the faster he or she will go; skier should get back into tuck quickly after turns.
 Untucked position: Skier's upright body creates more wind resistance, slower speed.


History: Alpine skiing, so named for the Alps of central Europe, was introduced in the late 19th century by the British elite who traveled to Switzerland and popularized skiing in central Europe.

The sport quickly spread to North America, Asia and Australia. In 1860, the King of Norway awarded a trophy to the winner of an Alpine skiing contest held near Oslo and subsequently named a committee to draft rules for annual tournaments.

Arnold Lunn, a British travel agent, invented the slalom and in 1924 organized the first combined event, a downhill and a slalom. Then he fought with FIS to endorse Alpine ski races, a battle he did not win until 1930. Lunn helped organize the first of the great ski races — the Arlberg-Kandahar. The so-called A-K race eventually turned into a circuit, with events at resorts in the Alps.

The first United States ski club was founded in New Hampshire in 1872, but it wasn't until after World War II that the sport really caught on. Servicemen who had the opportunity to ski in Europe helped invigorate the American ski industry.

By 1948, the Olympic program included men's and women's downhill and slalom events, and by 1952, the men's and women's giant slalom was added. Super giant slalom and combined events did not emerge on the Olympic scene until 1988.

The Alpine World Cup has been in effect since the 1966-67 season and is a scoring system put forth by the FIS that links a number of designated ski races into a winter-long competition.

Schedule
DateEventTime (ET)
Feb. 8 Men's Downhill 8:15 p.m. (Feb. 7)
Feb. 9 Men's Comb. — Downhill 8:15 p.m. (Feb. 8)
Feb. 10 Women's Super G 8:15 p.m. (Feb. 9)
Feb. 11 Men's Comb. — Slalom 7:30 p.m./11:00 p.m. (Feb. 10)
Feb. 13 Men's Super G 8:15 p.m. (Feb. 12)
Feb. 14 Women's Downhill 8:15 p.m. (Feb. 13)
Feb. 15 Women's Comb. — Downhill 8:15 p.m. (Feb. 14)
Feb. 17 Women's Comb. — Slalom 7:30 p.m./11 p.m. (Feb. 16)
Feb. 18 Men's Giant Slalom 7:30 p.m./11:30 p.m. (Feb. 17)
Feb. 19 Women's Slalom 7:30 p.m./11 p.m. (Feb. 18)
Feb. 20 Women's Giant Slalom 7:30 p.m./11:30 p.m. (Feb. 19)
Feb. 21 Men's Slalom 7:30 p.m./11 p.m. (Feb. 20)



U.S. Outlook: The United States team features three familiar names in the men's downhill, but all are coming off injuries and it's difficult to say if any will medal. Defending Olympic champion Tommy Moe, who is coming back after knee and thumb injuries forced an early end to his 1996-97 World Cup season, is joined by three-time Olympian AJ Kitt (torn knee ligaments), and two-time Olympian Kyle Rasmussen (also knee ligaments). Moe and Rasmussen should compete in the in the Super G, as well, joined by Daron Rahlves.

The best U.S. hope in the slalom and giant slalom is Matt Grosjean, who is making his third Olympic appearance. But his hopes of medalling are slim, after finishing 10th in Albertville in '92 and not completing the course in Lillehammer in '94.

The retirement of 1997 world downhill gold medalist Hilary Lindh leaves a void on the women's team, but Picabo Street offers the energy needed to invigorate U.S. hopes. But Street is coming off a knee injury and hasn't yet regained the form that earned her World Cup titles in 1995 and '96. Shannon Nobis and Megan Gerety both have solid chances at finishing in the top 10 in the Super G.

In the slalom, Krista Koznick had the best U.S. finish in last year's World Cup points race, but that was only 42nd overall. Shaina Mulkern, who turns 21 the week of the Nagano closing ceremonies, was 21st at the 1997 World Championships.

Others to Watch: While he won't have the home advantage this time around, Norway's Kjetil-Andre Aamodt has a good shot at a speed medal, as does teammate Atle Skaardal. Other contenders include French downhill sensation Luc Alphand, the overall World Cup title winner in 1997, as well as Austria's Werner Franz and Italy's Kristian Ghedina.

Italy's Alberto Tomba, who has earned medals in Calgary, Albertville and Lillehammer, will make his fourth Olympic appearance in Nagano. The 30-year-old has enjoyed two spectacular World Cup seasons, and will be one to watch during the slalom event. As for giant slalom, 1994 silver medalist Urs Kaelin and newcomer Michael Von Gruenigen, both of Switzerland, may give Tomba a run for his money. Aamodt is proficient in all four Alpine events, and is considered the favorite for the combined event.

For the women, Germany's Katja Seizinger has the opportunity to leave Nagano with a handful of hardware. She won back-to-back downhills on Dec. 4 and 5, pushing her over the 30-victory mark for her career, She also competes in the Super G, giant slalom and combined events.

Other to keep an eye on are Italian Deborah Compagnoni, the reigning world slalom champion; Switzerland's Karin Roten in the technical events; Italian Isolde Kostner, the '94 bronze medalist in the downhill; and Austrian Renate Goetschel in the downhill and Super G.

Gold Medalists:

 Men  Women

Men's Downhill
Year Name, Country Time
1948 Henri Oreiller, France 2:55.0
1952 Zeno Colo, Italy 2:30.8
1956 Anton Sailer, Austria 2:52.2
1960 Jean Vuarnet, France 2:06.0
1964 Egon Zimmermann, Austria 2:18.16
1968 Jean-Claude Killy, France 1:59.85
1972 Bernhard Russi, Switzerland 1:51.43
1976 Franz Klammer, Austria 1:45.73
1980 Leonhard Stock, Austria 1:45.50
1984 Bill Johnson, United States 1:45.59
1988 Pirmin Zurbriggen, Switzerland 1:59.63
1992 Patrick Ortlieb, Austria 1:50.37
1994 Tommy Moe, United States 1:45.75

Men's Super Giant Slalom
Year Name, Country Time
1988 Franck Piccard, France 1:39.66
1992 Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway 1:13.04
1994 Markus Wasmeier, Germany 1:32.53

Men's Giant Slalom
Year Name, Country Time
1952 Stein Eriksen, Norway 2:25.0
1956 Anton Sailer, Austria 3:00.1
1960 Roger Staub, Switzerland 1:48.3
1964 Francois Bonlieu, France 1:46.71
1968 Jean-Claude Killy, France 3:29.28
1972Gustav Thoni, Italy 3:09.62
1976 Heini Hemmi, Switzerland 3:26.97
1980 Ingemar Stenmark, Sweden 2:40.74
1984Max Julen, Switzerland 2:41.18
1988 Alberto Tomba, Italy 2:06.37
1992Alberto Tomba, Italy 2:06.98
1994 Markus Wasmeier, Germany 2:52.46

Men's Slalom
Year Name, Country Time
1948 Edi Reinalter, Switzerland 2:10.3
1952 Othmar Schneider, Austria 2:00.0
1956 Anton Sailer, Austria 3:14.7
1960 Ernst Hinterseer, Austria 2:08.9
1964 Josef Stiegler, Austria 2:11.13
1968Jean-Claude Killy, France1:39.73
1972Francisco Fernandez Ochoa, Spain 1:49.27
1976 Piero Gros, Italy 2:03.29
1980 Ingemar Stenmark, Sweden 1:44.26
1984 Phil Mahre, United States 1:39.41
1988Alberto Tomba, Italy 1:39.47
1992 Finn Christian Jagge, Norway 1:44.39
1994Thomas Stangassinger, Austria 2:02.02

Women's Downhill
Year Name, Country Time
1948 Hedy Schlunegger, Switzerland 2:28.3
1952 Trude Jochum-Beiser, Austria 1:47.1
1956 Madeleine Berthod, Switzerland 1:40.7
1960 Heidi Biebl, West Germany 1:37.6
1964 Christl Haas, Austria 1:55.39
1968 Olga Pall, Austria 1:40.87
1972 Marie-Theres Nadig, Switzerland 1:36.68
1976 Rosi Mittermaier, West Germany 1:46.16
1980 Annemarie Moser-Proll, Austria 1:37.52
1984 Michela Figini, Switzerland 1:13.36
1988 Marina Kiehl, West Germany 1:25.86
1992 Kerrin Lee-Gartner, Canada 1:52.55
1994 Katja Seizinger, Germany 1:35.93

Women's Super Giant Slalom
Year Name, Country Time
1988 Sigrid Wolf, Austria 1:19.03
1992 Deborah Compagnoni, Italy 1:21.22
1994 Diann Rolfe-Steinrotter, United States 1:22.15

Women's Giant Slalom
Year Name, Country Time
1952 Andrea Mead Lawrence, United States 2:06.8
1956 Ossi Reichert, West Germany 1:56.5
1960 Yvonne Ruegg, Switzerland 1:39.9
1964 Marielle Goitschel, France 1:52.24
1968 Nancy Greene, Canada 1:51.97
1972 Marie-Theres Nadig, Switzerland 1:29.90
1976 Kathy Kreiner, Canada 1:29.13
1980 Hanni Wenzel, Liechtenstein (2 runs) 2:41.66
1984 Debbie Armstrong, United States 2:20.98
1988 Vreni Schneider, Switzerland 2:06.49
1992 Pernilla Wiberg, Sweden 2:12.74
1994 Deborah Compagnoni, Italy 2:30.97
Women's Slalom
Year Name, Country Time
1948 Gretchen Fraser, United States 1:57.2
1952 Andrea Mead Lawrence, United States 2:10.6
1956 Renee Colliard, Switzerland 1:52.3
1960 Anne Heggtveigt, Canada 1:49.6
1964 Christine Goitschel, France 1:29.86
1968 Marielle Goitschel, France 1:25.86
1972 Barbara Cochran, United States 1:31.24
1976 Rosi Mittermaier, West Germany 1:30.54
1980 Hanni Wenzel, Liechtenstein 1:25.09
1984 Paoletta Magoni, Italy 1:36.47
1992 Petra Kronberger, Austria 1:32.68
1994 Vreni Schneider, Switzerland 1:56.01



Looking Back at Lillehammer: One of the more memorable moments of the '94 Games came when Moe beat Norway's Aamodt by .04 of a second in the men's downhill. Days later, Moe won a silver in the Super G, marking the first time an American man had won two Alpine ski medals at the same Winter Games. Germany's Markus Wasmeier left Lillehammer with two gold medals — one in the giant slalom and the other for the Super G, which he won by .02 of a second. In his third Olympic appearance, Italy's Alberto Tomba earned a silver medal in the slalom. The Norwegian team won five Alpine skiing medals out of the 15 awarded.

One the women's side, two skiers — Pernilla Wiberg in the combined, and Deborah Compagnoni in the giant slalom — came back from serious knee injuries to win gold in their respective events.

The U.S. women also surprised: Diann Roffe-Steinrotter won the Super G, and Street was second in the downhill.

Trivia: 1. The Alpine combined is a combination of what two events?
2. How long have skis been used?
3. To whom did Alberto Tomba offer one of his 1988 gold medals?
Answers

© Copyright 1998 washingtonpost.com

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