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Course-setting

In Super-G, slalom, giant slalom, and the slalom portion of the super combined, the race courses are set by delegates from different nations, with supervision by the International Ski Federation (FIS) Race Director. Each delegate (normally, a coach) is determined by a drawing held immediately after the last World Cup event prior to the Games.

Each nation gets a drawing entry for every one of its skiers ranked in the top 15 in that discipline. The Super-G withstanding, once a nation is selected to set one course, it is removed from course-setting consideration for the second run of that event or any future event. The course-setter tries to make a fair course, but will also try to favor skiers from his or her nation.

The downhill and the downhill portion of the super combined are the lone exceptions to this rule. These courses are set exclusively by the International Ski Federation (FIS) Race Director.

2010 Olympic course setters (by nation)

 DH
SG
GS 1&2
SL 1&2
SC (DH/SL)
Men's
FIS
ITA
FRA/ITA
CAN/AUT
FIS/CRO
Women's
FIS
AUT
GER/SWE
SLO/AUT
FIS/SLO

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Speed disciplines
The downhill and Super-G take place as one run. The skier with the fastest time is the Olympic champion. The margin of victory, counted to the hundredth of a second, is usually very small. Ties are possible.

Because of the high speeds involved in the downhill and Super-G, crashes and falls often prevent a skier from completing the course. However, a skier may finish a race and get an official result as long as he or she retains at least one firmly-bound ski at the finish line.

Downhill
In downhill, a skier must master speeds of up to 90 mph on various combinations of ice and snow while managing turns, steeps and flats. Although crashes are uncommon (only two skiers did not finish the downhill course in 2006), they can be spectacular.

Downhill is the only discipline where skiers are allowed training runs. Three training runs are scheduled on the Olympic slope prior to race day; each skier must start at least one of those runs.

The start order is determined by the results and points from World Cup events leading up to the Games. Based on a pre-race draw, the skiers ranked in the top 15 will receive a start number 8-22, while the skiers ranked 16th through 30th will receive a start number 1-7 or 23-30. They are followed by the rest of the field, starting with the skiers with the most World Cup Start List (WCSL) points, then FIS points.

The last time the time difference between the gold- and silver-medal winners was more than one second in the Olympic downhill was 1964.

Super-G
The Super-G made its Olympic debut at the 1988 Calgary Games. Short for super giant slalom, it combines the speed of downhill (usually 60-65 mph) and the precise turning (30-35 changes of direction) of giant slalom.

Unlike the downhill, no training runs are permitted in the Super-G; only a one-hour visual inspection on the morning of the race is allowed. Skiers must memorize the course quickly, trust their instincts to find the fastest line and stay true to their technique to produce an error-free run.

The start order is determined by the results and points from World Cup events leading up to the Games. Based on a pre-race draw, the skiers ranked in the top 15 will receive a start number 8-22, while the skiers ranked 16th through 30th will receive a start number 1-7 or 23-30. They are followed by the rest of the field, starting with the skiers with the most World Cup Start List (WCSL) points, then FIS points.

Technical disciplines
The slalom and giant slalom are held as one-day, two-run events. Usually, the first run is held in the morning, the second run in the afternoon. In each event, a one-hour visual inspection of each course is allowed prior to each competition run. Skiers must memorize the course quickly, trust their instincts to find the fastest line and stay true to their technique to produce an error-free run.

The first-run start order for the both events is determined by a draw the night before the race. Using rankings from the latest WCSL points list, the top seven skiers are randomly assigned start positions 1-7. Skiers ranked 8-15 on the WCSL list are randomly assigned the next eight bibs. The remaining skiers are slotted in the order of his/her FIS points.

All skiers who finish the first run are permitted to ski the second, regardless of their rank. In the second run, the skiers with the fastest 30 times in Run 1 start first, in reverse order, i.e. 30-1. They are followed by the rest of the field, i.e. ranked 31 and up.

During the second run, the combined time is shown on the screen. The skier with the fastest sum time for both runs is the Olympic champion. Ties are possible.

High-speed crashes are extremely rare in the technical events, but falls and errors along the course mean that

Slalom
The slalom event tests a skier's ability to maneuver quickly and efficiently down a ski slope scattered with alternating blue and red gates. The number of gates on a course is normally between 60-65 for men, 50-55 for women.

Because of the high technical demands of the course, the ratio of skiers who do not complete the course (DNF) to skiers is quite high. Occasionally, a skier who has missed a gate will ski up the hill to successfully pass it before completing the course and getting an official result. Clearly, this unexpected detour removes even the most skilled skier from medal contention. A skier may also be disqualified (DQ) after crossing the finish line if replays show that he or she improperly passed a gate.

Giant slalom
The giant slalom premiered at the 1952 Oslo Games, and of late, has produced the most diverse field of any of the Alpine events.

The giant slalom features wider, but fewer turns. The number of gates (normally, mid-50's for men, mid-40's for women) is determined by the vertical drop of the course. As in slalom, the gates are set alternately blue and red. The frequency of DNFs is lower in giant slalom than in slalom, but the same rules for disqualification apply.

Super combined
The combined event tests a skier's ability to handle both the speed and technical aspects of Alpine skiing.

For the first time since the Alpine combined was re-introduced to the Olympic program in 1988, the event will consist of one downhill run followed by one slalom run in a format called the "super combined." (From 1988-2006, the classical combined consisted of one downhill and two slalom runs.) The order of disciplines may be altered in the event of inclement weather and resultant scheduling conflicts.

The courses are shorter than those used in the downhill and slalom specialty events. All skiers who finish the first run are permitted to ski the second, regardless of their rank. The order of skiers in the first run is decided by a bib drawing. In the second run, the skiers with the fastest 30 times from the downhill start, in reverse order, i.e. 30-1. They are followed by the rest of the field, i.e. 31 and up.

During the second run, the combined time is shown on the screen. The skier with the fastest combined time for both disciplines is the Olympic champion. History shows that the combined winner was not necessarily the fastest skier in either of the two disciplines.

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