With its high-stakes, high-speed events over for this Olympic year, Alpine skiing moves on to its technical events. The giant slalom tests agility and control, with 56 to 70 gates on the men's course. The gates are placed closer together than they are for the downhill or Super-G. But the gates are farther apart than they are for the slalom, which concludes the Alpine competition on Saturday.
The giant slalom race consists of two runs -- one in the morning, one in early afternoon. Both runs are on the same slope, but over different courses. Medals are awarded according to the fastest combined time.
While some rare talents excel at all disciplines (American Bode Miller intends to compete in all five Olympic events and won silver in the giant slalom in 2002), a different set of skiers can be expected to excel at the technical events.
The oldest member of the U.S. team, three-time Olympian Erik Schlopy, 33, is a technical specialist and won bronze in the giant slalom at the 2003 world championships. Married to former Olympic swimmer Summer Sanders, Schlopy wants to add another Olympic medal to the family trophy case before retiring. First-time Olympian Ted Ligety of Park City, Utah, who is the youngest member of the team at 21, is another American worth watching.
But all eyes will be on Austria's Benjamin Raich, 27, who arrives in Turin atop the World Cup standings in the giant slalom. Raich's skiing is as steady and consistent as Miller's is daring and unpredictable. Italy's Max Blardone, skiing before a home crowd, is another favorite to end up on the podium.