Thursday, December 27, 2001
Updated: January 7, 3:23 PM ET
By ESPN.com news services
Olympic competition dates: Feb. 10-23
Venues: Snowbasin Ski Area (downhill, Super-G), Deer Valley Resort (slalom), Park City Mountain Resort (giant slalom)
American Chad Fleischer injured his knee in World Cup downhill training and is out. One year after a career-threatening knee injury, Dane Spencer made the United States team and will compete in the giant slalom.
Women: The women also lost a strong competitor when France's Regine Cavanoud died from injuries suffered in a crash in October. In addition to winning the super-G World Cup, Cavagnoud was third overall in the World Cup standings last season and had long been a strong competitor in the downhill and giant slalom.
Anja Paerson of Sweden, winner of four World Cup slaloms, and Andrine Flemmen of Norway are medal favorites, along with Americans Sarah Schleper, Kirsten Clark, Kristina Koznick and Caroline Lalive. Other hopefuls are Italy's Isolde Kostner, a two-time gold medalist at Lillehammer, Switzerland's Sonja Nef and Austrian Renate Goetschl.
Wild cards are Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden, a four-time world champion with two previous Olympic golds, and American Picabo Street, also an Olympic gold medalist. Both on the comeback trail after serious knee injuries.
The finer points
In the technical events -- slalom and giant slalom -- skiers traverse a course that requires them to make quick cuts and turns through a series of gates, displaying speed, agility and quick thinking. The racers have to pass through all the gates on runs down two different courses, and their combined times on the two runs determine the final finish order.
In the showcase Alpine event -- the downhill -- only one thing counts: speed. The winner is the skier who can successfully make it to the bottom of a course with 881-meters of vertical drop (500-700 for the women), surviving jumps, turns and straightaways in which speeds can reach 80 miles an hour. Once. There are no second chances in the downhill.
The super giant slalom is essentially a combination of the two disciplines -- skiers get one crack at a long, fast course with a series of turns through gates.
An official from the International Ski Federation sets the downhill course. Bernhard Russi of Switzerland, who won gold in 1972 in downhill, created the course for Salt Lake City.
All of the other disciplines use a method that selects a person from a competing country to design the course. After the last World Cup race in the pre-Olympic season, the country of the top 15 ranked skiers is put a on a piece of paper and placed in a bowl to be drawn. If one country has four top skiers, it gets four slips of paper. In events where there are two runs a second country is chosen to set the additional run.