Alpine Skiing DOWNHILL
Men to watch: Men: Pirmin Zurbriggen, Switzerland; Peter Mueller, Switzerland; Daniel Mahrer, Switzerland; Rob Boyd, Canada.
Women to watch: Michela Figini, Switzerland; Maria Walliser, Switzerland; Laurie Graham, Canada; Katrin Gutensohn, Austria.
How to watch: In this, the glamor event of the Winter Olympics, competitors get one run down the course. The fastest time wins. This year's course will include about 40 control gates and terrain that varies from a nearly 50-degree decline in the upper portion to a 2,000-foot flat ("flat," of course, is a relative term in this event) in the lower portion. Most of the course's difficult turns will be set up in its narrower, steeper upper half.
Men to watch: Alberto Tomba, Italy; Marc Girardelli, Luxembourg; Bojan Krijaz, Yugoslavia; Ingemar Stenmark, Sweden.
Women to watch: Ida Ladstaetter, Austria; Roswitha Steiner, Austria; Mateja Svet, Yugoslavia; Vreni Schneider, Switzerland.
How to watch: The event is held on two separate courses. Each competitor makes one run through each course. Best cumulative time wins. This is the most technical of the Alpine events. Its courses are much shorter than those of the other events, but they involve the most gates. This year, it will be particularly difficult because the course will be set up on Nakiska's steep, upper portion.
Men to watch: Zurbriggen; Girardelli; Markus Wasmeier, West Germany.
Women to watch: Sylvia Eder, Austria; Brigitte Oertli, Switzerland; Schneider.
How to watch: This is a two-day event involving the downhill on the first day and the slalom on the second. Best overall cumulative time for both events wins.
Men to watch: Tomba; Zurbriggen; Joel Gaspoz, Switzerland; Hubert Strolz, Austria.
Women to watch: Figini; Catherine Quittet, France; Schneider; Walliser; Tamara McKinney, United States.
How to watch: Like the slalom, the giant slalom has numerous turns and involves two runs, with the best cumulative time winning. However, the giant slalom's course is considerably longer than the slalom's and competitors make their two runs through the same course.
SUPER GIANT SLALOM
Men to watch: Tomba; Zurbriggen; Wasmeir; Felix Belczyk, Canada; Girardelli.
Women to watch: Figini; Schneider; Walliser; Sigrid Wolf, Austria.
How to watch: This event basically is a combination of the downhill, the slalom and the giant slalom. There are fewer gates than there are in the slaloms, but they are more numerous, closer together and more demanding than those in the downhill. As in the downhill, competitors in the "Super G" make just one run. Fastest time wins.
Worthy of note: The reason there are so many Alpine events is that in Federation Internationale de Ski's (FIS) overall scheme, the Games amount to just one part of the 1987-88 World Cup season, albeit a very special one. In any case, each season, FIS crowns an overall world ski champion in men's and women's competition. The champion has the best overall combined finish in all World Cup events.
The traditional events are the downhill, the slalom and the giant slalom. Because the downhill is such a different event from the slalom and giant slalom, most skiers specialized in either the downhill or the slaloms. This, of course, greatly enhanced a slalom specialist's chance of winning the championship. Therefore in 1982, FIS added the super giant slalom and the Alpine combined. This has helped downhill specialists' chances at an overall World Cup title without hurting the slalom specialists.
The Alpine combined is making its first Winter Olympics appearance since 1948. The Super G is making its Winter Olympics debut.
In the various slalom events, upper body and leg strength are very important -- one reason 6-foot-1, 195-pound Tomba is so good.
Cross Country Skiing
Men to watch: 15 kilometers: Gunde Svan, Sweden; Harri Kirvesniemi, Finland; Torgny Mogren, Sweden; Tomas Wassberg, Sweden. 30 kilometers: Wassberg; Kirvesniemi; Vladimir Smirnov, Soviet Union; Svan. 50 kilometers: Maurilio De Zolt, Italy; Mogren; Smirnov; Svan. 40-kilometer relay: Finland, Italy, Norway, Soviet Union, Sweden.
Women to watch: 5 kilometers: Marianne Dahlmo, Norway; Marja-Liisa Hamalainen, Finland; Marjo Matikainen, Finland; Brit Pettersen, Norway; Anfisa Retzova, Soviet Union. 10 kilometers: Dahlmo; Anne Jahren, Norway; Matikainen. 20 kilometers: Annette Boe, Norway; Jahren; Marie-Helen Westin, Sweden. 20-kilometer relay: East Germany, Finland, Norway, Soviet Union.
How to watch: In individual races, competitors are started 30 seconds apart and race against the clock. The relays have mass starts and the teams compete head to head. The courses are designed to be one-third uphill, one-third downhill and one-third flat. This year's course is known for its particularly steep downhill sections, in which competitors may reach 40-50 mph.
Because of the continuing controversy between the use of "classic" skiing (a traditional, slower diagonal stride in which both skis always are under the skier) and the use of "skating" (a recent, faster hockey-skating-style striding in which skiers push off their skis, using a V-shaped motion), races will be limited to one style. In the two shorter individual races for men and women, competitors will ski in classic style. In the men's 50-kilometer, women's 20-kilometer and the relay, skating will be used.
In classic races, competitors will ski in two pre-cut tracks, each the width of one ski. A pre-cut passing path runs parallel to the main racing path.
In skating races, there is no set track. One wider trail is flattened (to allow for the width of the skating stride) and competitors are on their own as far as what part of the path to use.
Worthy of note: Selection of ski wax is so important races can be won and lost before they begin. Competitors make this decision depending on snow conditions. Since snow conditions can vary throughout a course or change during a race, this is not always simple. Also, although it is easy to get caught up in the gracefulness, keep in mind this probably is the Winter Games' most physically and mentally grueling sport. One kilometer is equal to .6214 miles, and the Olympic record for the men's 50 kilometers (about 31 miles), for example, is 2 hours 15 minutes 55.8 seconds.
Who to watch: Geir Andersen, Norway; Torbjoern Loekken, Norway; Klaus Sulzenbacher, Austria; Hermann Weinbuch, West Germany.
Teams to watch: Norway, West Germany, Soviet Union, Switzerland.
How to watch: This event is a sort of biathlon comprised of ski jumping and cross country skiing. It takes place over two days: ski jump on the first day, cross country race on the second. Point systems are used for both events. The competitor with the greatest combined total wins.
The ski jump is held on the 70-meter hill. Each competitor makes three jumps. The two best scores are kept and added together. The scoring system is same as the one used for the regular ski jumping competition.
The cross country portion is held over a 15-kilometer course. The competitors start at handicapped intervals, with the ski jumping results determining the starting order and the intervals between starts. The winner of the ski jump starts first, the second-place finisher second and so on. The amount of time between starts is based on a scale that works out to a one-minute interval for each difference of nine ski jumping points.
In the team event, each member of each team makes one attempt in the ski jump on the first day. On the second, each skis one leg of a 3x10-kilometer cross country relay.
Worthy of note: The best Olympic finish by an American in this event is Rolf Monsen's ninth-place effort in 1932. Kerry Lynch's silver-medal performance at the 1987 world championships would have made him the first American ever to win a medal in a major world competition. However, Lynch was stripped of his medal for blood doping (in which the athlete receives a transfusion of his own stored blood just before competing, providing extra red blood cells and, therefore, extra oxygen). He is ineligible for the Calgary Games for another admitted instance of blood doping, leaving the United States without a serious medal contender in the sport.
East Germany's Ulrich Wehling won this event in 1972, 1976 and 1980, making him the first man to win the same individual event in three consecutive Winter Games.
Who to watch: 70-meter individual: Matti Nykanen, Finland; Jens Weissflog, East Germany; Pavel Ploc, Czechoslavkia. 90-meter individual: Nykanen. 90-meter team: Finland, Norway, Austria.
How to watch: Event names refer to distances covered before jumping, not the height from which the competitors jump. Each competitor gets two jumps and is judged objectively on distance and subjectively on style.
Technically, the objective scoring is not simply the distance jumped. A red line, called the critical point, is established on the landing area. A jumper reaching the line is awarded 60 distance points. Points are added for jumps that reach beyond the line and subtracted for jumps that end short of the line. The distances are measured by officials standing on one side of the landing area at one-meter intervals. The official closest to the point of impact announces the distance.
Subjective scoring is done by a panel of five judges, each stationed separately. A perfect jump would be worth 20 style points. Points are subtracted for flaws in form, as in a diving or gymnastics competition. Generally, deviations from optimum aerodynamic form will result in the deduction of style points. When landing, jumpers attempt to do so smoothly and in the Telemark position (one ski in front of the other, knees and hips bent and arms at sides). The high and low style marks are dropped and the other three added.
The competitor with the most style and distance points after two jumps is the winner.
Worthy of Note: It only looks like the jumpers are traveling high through the air. Because the landing hill is contoured to the flight of the jump, they rarely are more than 10 or 15 feet off the ground.
Who to watch: 10 kilometers: Peter Angerer, West Germany; Yuri Kashkarov, Soviet Union; Valeri Medvetsev, Soviet Union; Frank-Peter Roetsch, East Germany. 20 kilometers: Angerer; Fritz Fischer, West Germany; Medvetsev; Roetsch; Josh Thompson, United States. 30-kilometer relay: East Germany, Soviet Union, West Germany.
How to watch: In Greek, "biathlon" means dual test and this event combines cross country skiing and .22-caliber small-bore riflery -- two events that would not seem very compatible. The skiing part raises competitors' heart rates, which makes accurate shooting difficult. Poor shooting, in turn, makes the skiing part more difficult because for each target missed, additional distance must be skied.
In all events, the "skating" style of cross country skiing is permitted and the targets are set up 164 feet (50 meters) from the firing line. Competitors ski with their rifles, which weigh about 10 pounds, slung on their backs. There is one shooting range, from which competitors ski circuitous trails. The winners are based on time. Competitors start at one-minute ntervals in the individual events, en masse in the relay.
In the 10 kilometers (the "sprint," in biathlonese) competitors ski 3.75 kilometers and then must shoot from a prone position. After this, they ski another 3.75 kilometers and then must shoot from a standing position. The final 2.5 kilometers is uninterrupted skiing.
At each shooting station, competitors are given five shots to hit five stationary targets. For each target missed, competitors must ski a 150-meter penalty loop. There is a two-minute time penalty if a competitor does not fire five shots.
In the 20 kilometers, competitors ski 3.75 kilometers and then shoot from the prone position. After this, they ski 5 kilometers and then shoot from the standing position. Another 3.75 kilometers of skiing and then more prone position shooting; after another 5 kilometers, more standing position shooting. The final 2.5 kilometers is uninterrupted skiing.
As in the 10 kilometers, competitors get five shots at five targets at each shooting stop. However, in this event, there are no penalty laps. For each missed target, there is a one-minute time penalty. Again, two minutes are added if fewer than five shots are fired at each shooting stop.
In the 30-kilometer relay, four competitors each ski 7.5 kilometers. After 2.5 kilometers, they shoot from the prone position. After another 2.5 kilometers, from standing. The final 2.5 kilometers is uninterrupted.
The penalty system for missed targets is the same as the one used for the 10-kilometer individual event. However, in the relay, each competitor gets eight shots to hit five targets at each shooting stop.
Worthy of note: No Americans ever have won an Olympic medal in the biathlon. In fact, the best performance by Americans is a sixth-place finish in the relay in 1972. Thompson's second-place finish in the 20 kilometers in the 1987 world championships was the first medal-winning performance by an American in any world biathlon competition.
Who to watch: Two-man: Hans Hiltebrand and Andre Kiser, Switzerland; Wolfgang Hoppe and Dietmar Schauerhammer, East Germany; Ralph Pichler and Celest Poltera, Switzerland; Yanis Kipurs and Kaslov, Soviet Union. Four-man (driver in parentheses): East Germany I (Hoppe), Switzerland I (Hiltebrand), Switzerland II (Pichler).
How to watch: In each event, teams will make four runs. Fastest cumulative time wins.
The start is critical, one reason the U.S. team added Chicago Bears wide receiver Willie Gault, a world-class sprinter, to help push at the start. Tenths of seconds saved in the upper, slower part of the course can translate into one-, two- and three-second advantages at the finish -- enormous margins since competitions often are determined by cumulative totals of a half-second and less. Riders start outside and astride their sleds, 50 feet behind the starting line. Teams will rock their sleds to a cadence and then throw themselves and the sled forward. In theory, teams could run all the way down the track if they wanted to as long as all members of the team are on the sled at the finish line. In practice, they jump in one by one, starting with the driver and ending with the brakeman.
Once everyone is in, riders lean one way or the other in unison to steer or the driver maneuvers ropes attached to the two front runners. The latter takes away from the sled's downward momentum, and thus slows it.
Riders can leave the sled to restart it after a crash. Braking is not allowed until after the finish line. Runners must have rounded edges and may not exceed air temperature by more than 4 degrees centigrade.
This is the fastest of all Olympic sports, with sleds reaching speeds of 80-100 mph as they careen down a course that this year is 4,842 feet long, has a 388-foot vertical drop and 15 curves. In one of those turns, the 270-degree Kriesel Curve, competitors will feel up to 4 1/2 G's.
Worthy of note: In order to keep the runners as warm as possible within the rules, competitors avoid attaching them to the chassis until the last possible moment before a run. At Sarajevo, the Soviets raced stunningly in "cigar" sleds, but new rules have outlawed that design.
Men to watch: Singles: Norbert Huber, Italy; Sergei Danilin, Soviet Union; Rene Friedl, East Germany; Markus Prock, Austria. Doubles: Joerg Hoffmann and Jochen Pietzsch, East Germany; Stefan Ilsanker and Georg Hackl, West Germany; Vitali Melnik and Dmitri Alekseev, Soviet Union; Thomas Schwab and Wolfgang Staudinger, West Germany.
Women to watch: Singles: Steffi Walter, East Germany; Yulia Antipova, Soviet Union; Gabriela Kohlisch, East Germany; Cerstin Schmidt, East Germany; Bonny Warner, United States.
How to watch: Lugers are face up, head back, feet first and without brakes, as they attempt to guide sleds weighing about 50 pounds down and through a twisting course without falling off. At the start, lugers grasp handles planted on either side of the starting line and rock the sled until one final push off. Steering is accomplished with slight movements of hips, legs and shoulders.
In singles, competitors make four runs; in doubles two. In all events, cumulative time determines order of finish, with time recorded to the one-thousandth of a second. (Luge is the only sport in either the Summer or Winter Games timed with such precision.)
Men's course is 5,245 feet and has a 342-foot cumulative vertical drop; women's course is 5,343 feet and has a 267-foot drop. Competitors on both courses will reach speeds up to 75 mph, the average ride lasts 30-35 seconds. During that time, competitors feel forces up to four or five Gs.
Worthy of note: Since heavier competitors have an advantage, each competitor is weighed naked before each event and then given a weight limit. Lighter single men competitors may add 75 percent of the difference between 198 pounds and their weights, up to 28.6 pounds. Women may add 75 percent of the difference between 165 pounds and their weights, up to 22 pounds. Extra weight usually takes the form of weighted vests or belts. At a postrace weigh-in, sled and competitor are weighed separately; if either exceeds the established weight limits, the competitor is disqualified.
Men to watch: 500: Sergei Fokichev, Soviet Union; Dan Jansen, United States; Akira Kuroiwa, Japan, Nick Thometz, United States; 1,000: Gaetan Boucher, Canada; Kuroiwa; Thometz; Jansen; Igor Zhelezovski, Soviet Union; 1,500: Rolf Falk-Larssen, Norway; Nikolai Gulyaev, Soviet Union; Hein Vergeer, Holland; Zhelezovski; Eric Flaim, United States; 5,000: Tomas Gustafson, Sweden; Geir Karlstad, Norway; Vergeer; Leo Visser, Holland; 10,000: Michael Hadschieff, Austria; Karlstad, Visser
Women to watch: 500: Bonnie Blair, United States; Karin Enke-Kania, East Germany; Christa Rothenburger, East Germany; 1,000: Blair; Enke-Kania; Andrea Schoene Ehrig, East Germany; Rothenburger; 1,500: Jacqueline Boerner, East Germany; Ehrig, Enke-Kania, Gabi Zange, East Germany; 3,000: Ehrig, Enke-Kania, Yvonne Van Gennip, Holland; 5,000: Ehrig, Van Gennip, Heike Schalling, East Germany; Zange.
How to watch: Each nation may be represented by up to 12 men and eight women, although it may enter no more than three competitors per event. Competitors, paired for each race by random draw, compete against the clock. However, because skaters tend to pace each other, it is not unusual for the one paired with the gold medal winner to win a medal, too.
In each event, competitors race counterclockwise on a 400-meter oval and must switch lanes in the straightaway opposite the finish line (except in the first straightaway of the 1,000- and 1,500-meter races). During lane switches, the skater starting in the outside lane has the right of way.
Worthy of note: The speed skating venue in Calgary is the first fully enclosed Olympic 400-meter skating oval. The $29.2 million facility is kept at a constant temperature of 50 degrees. With the wind, ice conditions and virtually every other variable controlled, the times should be excellent.
All five men's Olympic records are held by American Eric Heiden, who set them in 1980. All four women's Olympic records were set in 1984 (the 5,000 is a new event for women) by East Germans, two by Kania; one by Schoene Ehrig.
Men to watch: Brian Boitano, United States; Brian Orser, Canada; Alexander Fadeev, Soviet Union; Viktor Petrenko, Soviet Union.
Women to watch: Katarina Witt, East Germany; Debi Thomas, United States; Caryn Kadavy, United States; Elizabeth Manley, Canada; Jill Trenary, United States.
Pairs to watch: Ekaterina Gordeeva and Sergei Grinkov, Soviet Union; Larisa Selezneva and Oleg Makarov, Soviet Union; Jill Watson and Peter Oppegard, United States; Kathrin Beck and Christoff Beck, Austria.
How to watch: Singles competitions are divided into three portions, each of which is scored by an international panel of nine judges selected by the International Skating Union.
Compulsory school figures (30 percent of competitor's score). This is the tedious tracing of three figure-eight variations. Each competitor must trace each figure three times on each foot with pause between repetitions. Points are deducted for poorly shaped figures, poor form and falls.
Short program (20 percent). A two-minute program set to music that must include seven basic moves or combinations. Judges give one set of scores for performance of required moves and another for overall presentation.
Freestyle long program (50 percent). Men perform a 4 1/2-minute program, women a four-minute program. Programs are set to music and judges give one set of scores for technical merit (difficulty, variety and execution of moves) and another for artistic impression.
Pairs, also scored by an international panel of nine judges, involves only two portions.
Compulsory short program (30 percent). A 2-minute 15-second program governed and scored in same manner as this portion of the singles competition.
Freestyle long program (70 percent). A 4 1/2-minute program governed and scored in same manner as this portion of singles competition.
Worthy of note: The defending pairs gold medalists, the Soviet Union's Elena Valova and Oleg Vasiliev, will not compete because Valova has an injured foot.
Don't worry if you can't tell the difference between the moves invented by Alois Lutz, Axel Paulsen and Ulrich Salchow -- particularly if you understand the scoring.
The marks from all nine judges count (the high and low marks are not thrown out). But the absolute scores, from zero to six, a competitor receives do not matter. What matters is their placement in relation to those received by other competitors. After each portion of the competition, the marks each judge gave each competitor are ranked from first to last. Whoever has the most firsts is first, etc. The placements are then multiplied by a factor for each portion of the competition. In singles the factors are 0.6 for figures, 0.4 for short program and 1.0 for long program; in pairs they are 0.4 for short program and 1.0 for the long program. (Thus, if a singles competitor is placed first by a majority of judges in each portion, he or she would have a final score of 2.0; in pairs, the best possible final score is 1.4.) The competitor with the lowest overall score is the winner.
Who to watch: Natalia Bestemianova and Andrei Bukin, Soviet Union; Marina Klimova and Sergei Ponomarenko, Soviet Union; Tracy Wilson and Robert McCall, Canada.
How to watch: Competition has three segments that are scored by an international panel of nine judges selected by the International Skating Union. All segments are set to music.
Compulsory dances (30 percent of a pair's score). Pairs must follow a set of dance patterns established by the ISU. Which of the four sets of patterns to be skated is determined by a random draw the night before this competition. Pairs must skate in perfect unison.
Original set pattern dance (20 percent). This is a freestyle program that must be set to the particular rhythm chosen by the ISU at the previous year's world championships; at Calgary, it is the tango. Also, programs must include repetitive sequences that involve circuits of half or all of the rink. Judges give one set of marks for composition and another for presentation.
Free dance (50 percent). Pairs perform a four-minute freestyle program during which partners may not separate more than five times, with each separation being no longer than five seconds. Dance music with no more than three changes in theme, melody or rhythm must be used. Judges give one set of marks for technical merit and another for artistic merit.
Worthy of note: Scoring and determination of winner is same as in figure skating with the placement multiplication factors being 0.6 for compulsory dances, 0.4 for original set pattern and 1.0 for free dance (thus, best possible final score is 2.0).
There are many differences between figure skating and ice dancing, however. In general, ice dancing is much more heavily regulated. For example, jumps and lifts above waist level are forbidden. Technically, all moves in an ice dancing program must be exactly replicable on a dance floor.
Because it has so many rules, ice dancing competitions occasionally have extremely controversial outcomes in which the point of contention is a highly technical rules interpretation. Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean of Britain, who won the gold in '84 but have gone on to professional skating, brought electricity and sensuality seldom seen before in the sport.
Who to watch: Soviet Union (F Igor Larionov, F Vladimir Krutov, F Sergei Makarov, D Viacheslav Fetisov); Canada (G Sean Burke, G Andy Moog); Sweden; Czechoslovakia (G Dominik Hasek); United States (D Brian Leetch, F Scott Fusco, Gs Mike Richter and Chris Terreri).
How to watch: The 12 nations involved reached the Olympics based on finishes at the 1987 world championships last April. They have been divided into two six-team groups: Blue (Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, West Germany, United States, Norway, Austria) and Red (Sweden, Canada, Finland, Poland, Switzerland, France).
After round-robin competition within the group, the top three finishers in each group advance to a six-team medal round-robin competition. In both the preliminary and medal rounds, teams earn two points for a win, one for a tie and none for a loss (there is no overtime). The team with the most points overall wins the gold medal. Teams carry over points into the medal round that were earned against teams that also advanced from the preliminary round.
Worthy of Note: An Olympic-sized rink is 196 feet long and 98 feet wide; a standard NHL rink is 200 feet by 85 feet. That makes Olympic hockey much more of a flowing, passing game than the pro version. Another difference: In the NHL, fighting brings a five-minute penalty, after that combatants may reenter the game; in the Olympics, fighting brings a five-minute penalty, ejection and suspension from all remaining games.
Freestyle Skiing: In this sport, also called "hot dog skiing," competitors perform almost like gymnasts in three events: aerials (stunts such as somersaults), ballet (routines performed to music while skiing a set course) and moguls (carefully calculated high speed turns on a steep, heavily moguled slope; moguls are built-up snow bumps). The sport dates from the 1960s.
Curling: Shuffleboard on ice is played by two four-man teams that slide rocks or stones along a 146-foot, pebbled sheet of ice. The team that places the most rocks near a circular target wins. The sport is popular in Canada and northern Europe.
Short Track Speed Skating: Pack skating is a dangerous twist on traditional speed skating, in which competitors zip around a 110-meter oval (compared with a 400-meter oval in other speed skating events). The sport has been called "roller derby on ice," with skaters reaching speeds of 25 mph. Boards are padded to help prevent injuries in crashes. Canadians have dominated this sport (seven world champions in eight years), expected to gain medal status for 1992.
Disabled Skiing: The competition includes both the Alpine and Nordic events for men and women. For example, sightless cross-country skiers will be led by sighted guides.