CANOE NAGANO '98 ISP DIRECTORY
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
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.