Alpine Skiing

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• Part 2: Slaloms and Combined

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Part 1: Downhill

Alpine skiing is a very popular series of events, including the downhill, the slalom, the giant slalom, the super-G, and the combined. The downhill and slalom first appeared in 1936, at the Winter Olympics in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. The giant slalom was added in 1952, at the Games in Oslo, Norway. The super-G made its debut in 1988, at Calgary, Canada.

The downhill has skiers going as fast as they can down the mountain, turning here and there around obstacles, down sleep slopes, and over packed snow and ice. Top speeds for this event can exceed 130 kilometers per hour (80 mph).

Unlike the other alpine events, the downhill is one "run," giving athletes just one chance to prove themselves on the fast, dangerous course. (They are allowed practice runs, however.) Close finishes are common, and some athletes have found themselves as medal winners by hundredths of a second.

As with other skiers, downhillers wear helmets and skin-tight suits. The helmet protects the head in case of a crash, and the suit is designed to decrease wind resistance, so the skier can go very fast. Also, the downhill skiers are up to 30 percent longer than those used in other Alpine events. The poles, too, are different, curved more inward to help the skier keep in an aerodynamic, or "tucked," position.

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