Take Alberto Tomba, the Fabio of slalom racing, who won three Olympic gold medals, retired in 1998, and now has his own signature perfume. Then there’s American slalom standout Bode Miller, a rebel from New Hampshire known for his hard partying, who once quit the U.S. Ski Team to start his own independent team. And don’t forget Jean-Claude Killy, the gate-bashing star of the ’60s who moonlighted as an actor and racecar driver. The point? Slalom breeds big personalities. In giant slalom, super G, and downhill, the gates are wider, the course is longer, and the speeds are higher. But in slalom, where skiers thread the needle between gates set close together, the winning line is all about precision and technique. The slightest mistake can result in a missed gate—an automatic DNF—or lost time. Sadly for spectators, perpetual newsmaker Hermann Maier has retired from competition, but fellow Austrian Benjamin Raich, who won gold in Torino in both slalom and GS, will be back to defend his country’s gold-studded slalom history.
Ones to Watch: Maria Riesch and Jean-Baptiste Grange.
Look out for Germany’s Maria Riesch and France’s Jean-Baptiste Grange in Vancouver. They’re both masters of technique who broke onto the World Cup scene in 2004. Riesch, who’s also the 2009 Lange Girl, won four World Cup slalom races last winter. In her first Olympics, 25-year-old Riesch will be looking to take down one of her closest friends, American speedster Lindsey Vonn. Although Grange didn’t finish his slalom run at the 2006 Torino Games, he has been on the upswing ever since, with a first-place ranking in the 2009 World Cup.
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