Alpine Ski Racing
Alpine ski racing is pretty basic: A skier goes down a snowy mountainside from Point A to Point B and the
fastest time wins. No judging, just go! Races are timed in hundredths of a second.
There are four types of races: slalom, giant slalom, super G and downhill. Downhill is the high-speed
attention-getter with racers rocketing along at speeds of up to 80 miles per hour in some stretches, while
slalom has a zig-zag, staccato tempo. In between are giant slalom and super G. Downhill and super G are
one-run races, while slalom and giant slalom are two-run events.
Cross country is a rugged mix of speed and endurance. Races are held at a variety of distances; on the
World Cup tour, races range from 5-km to 30-km for women and 10-km to 50-km for men, but there are
non-World Cup events that are 100-km events. Ideally, races are held on courses one-third rolling
"undulating" country-side, one-third uphill and one-third downhill.
Disabled Ski Team
Disabled skiing involves persons with mobility impairments, including amputees paraplegics, post-polio, or
prenatal German Measles, plus persons with visual impairments -- even total blindness.
Freestyle skiing is a three-event sport, mixing the graceful twists and twirls of acro-skiing with the pulsating speed and excitement of racing through the snowy bumps in moguls, and then perhaps the biggest adrenaline "rush," aerials.
Acro skiing is the more subtle contrast to the electrifying and slam-bang of aerials and moguls. Highly athletic in its own way, acro (formerly known as ballet skiing) has been likened to the beauty and skill of figure skating on skis.
In aerials a skier is launched from a specially-designed jump and goes 50 or more feet above the snowy landing hill. In the air, they perform twists and flips before trying to land upright; skiers may not attempt inverted aerials (i.e., their feet go above their head) until they've been certified by their coaches after hours of performing in a swimming pool. The skier basically calls the trick, and there are no compulsories.
In moguls skiers are judged by how well they ski a line (route) down the course and how well they perform "air" i.e., maneuvers off two midcourse jumps. A panel of judges sits at the bottom of the run with specific scores for technique and skier's two airs. There is also a factor of how fast the course is skied.
Athletes soar through the air going more than the length of a football field before landing on a snowy hillside. World Cup jumps are divided into three categories: normal hill, large hill and flying hill. The normal hill is now referred to as a 90-meter hill because that's about how far a skier jumps from the takeoff to the spot midway between the two skis on landing. The large hill is usually known as a 115-meter or a 120-meter. The flying hill is the biggest of all, and range from 160 meters to 185. Points for a jumper are decided by a formula for the distance plus "style" points, which are awarded by five judges on the side of the hill who look at form in the air and landing. The high and low scores are thrown out and the remaining three scores are tallied.
Nordic combined, as the name implies, combines the two elements of Nordic skiing: cross country and jumping. It's a 90-meter jumping competition followed by a 15-k ski race.
Snowboarding will make its Olympic debut in 1998. Two events are scheduled for men and women riders: giant slalom (with the men's race on the first day of competition) and halfpipe.
Competition will be tough for the maximum 14 spots on the first U.S. Olympic Snowboard Team. IOC quotas for snowboarding are a total 35 men and 30 women from all nations for GS with 35 men and 20 women for halfpipe.
Snowboarding, like cross country skiing (with classical or freestyle technique), has two distinct elements: alpine and freestyle. And, like cross country's "mixed" relay format with classic and freestyle techniques, snowboarding has boardercross which mixes alpine and freestyle in a follow-the-leader, beat-the-leader slice of downhill pandemonium.
One main difference between skiing and snowboarding is the start. Although skiers and riders break a wand to start their clock running, snowboarders use posts driven into the snow to push off.
Like the competitive skiing it's derived from, alpine snowboarding has "technical" (gate-running) events and "speed" (downhill/super G) racing. All feature a beat-the-clock format. Snowboarding also has a parallel slalom race with riders competing on side-by-side courses. World Cup skiing included parallel (a one-word event which normally is an exhibition) in its World Cup schedule for this season, but it seldom is included at the World Cup level.
Parallel SL in snowboarding uses a knockout format to determine the winner. Riders are timed in a qualifying run; based on their time, the men's field is cut to 16 and women's field reduced to eight. At that point, it's total time from one run on a blue course and one run on a red course to decide who moves to the next round.
In freestyle snowboarding, riders perform in a halfpipe, a giant snow trough, with competitors performing various tricks while three or five judges grade their acrobatic maneuvers (rotations, standard maneuvers, landings, technical merit and amplitude). In all freestyle events this season, the halfpipe has become a knockout format with the slowest riders dropped at the end of early rounds before the knockout format -- one rider competing (but not simultaneously) against another -- is used in the final round.
Boardercross (or "snowboardcross" or SBX) was added to the FIS World Cup schedule for the 1997 season. Depending on the number of participants in a race, four or six riders are at the starting line together and simultaneously ride down a slope studded with various obstacles (i.e., moguls, steeps, jumps, waves). The first two (or three if it's a six-racer field) across the finish line qualify for the next round of competition in this elimination format event.
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