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     Issues: One of the biggest pre-Games' controversies is the length of the men's downhill in Nagano. It is considered too short and too easy but Japanese enviromental laws forbid a course extension at the top of the mountain. The sport's international federation is currently in a heated debate over this issue with Games' organizers.
      Contenders: Alpine skiing is the number-one Olympic winter sport for European sports fans. Italian triple Olympic champion Alberto Tomba is the world's most recognizable skier. Now 30, he will be in his fourth Olympics and will have his best shot in the slalom at Nagano. Versatile skiers such as Italy's Deborah Compagnoni, Germany's Katja Seizinger and Norway's Kjetil Andre-Aamodt are multi-medal contenders at the Games. In the women's downhill American Picabo Street is still recovering from a knee injury while Pernila Wiberg of Sweden, another downhill threat, has torn knee ligaments and is out at least until December. Last year's overall men's champion and downhill star Luc Alphand of France has retired. The Austrian Downhill Express led by stars Josef Strobl and Patrick Ortlieb could sweep.
      Canadians: Despite disappointing performances on the World Cup, Canada can boast an impressive Olympic record. Those Crazy Canucks have medalled at the past three Olympics and five of the last six. Once again Canada's best medal chances are in the downhills with 1994 Olympic bronze medallist Edi Podivinski and Brian Stemmle for the men and 1993 world champion Kate Pace for the women. But keep an eye on Thomas Grandi in the men's giant slalom, a Canadian-best eight at the world championships last winter.
      The sport: There are five events in alpine skiing for men and women: the downhill, super giant slalom (super G), giant slalom, slalom and combined. The downhill is considered the sport's biggest prize with racers reaching speeds near 130 kilometres and hour. The super G is also a speed event but the course is shorter than the downhill and there's more emphasis on technique because there are more gates (about 40). The giant slalom is the perfect equilibrium between speed and technique. The course is shorter than super G but with an equal number of gates. Many feel the GS champion also crowns the best pure skier in the world. The slalom is the most technical discipline and although the pace is slower than the other events, a rapid succession of gates (about 60) assures constant action. There are two runs in both GS and slalom. The skier with the fastest total time is the winner. The combined is a three-race event. There's a downhill the first day and two slalom runs the next day.