|Date||13 February 1998 — 11:00|
|Location||Happo'one, Hakuba (Olympic Course I)|
|Participants||43 from 18 countries|
|Course Setter||Sepp Messner||ITA|
|Venue details||Gates: 44|
Length: 3289 m
Start Altitude: 1765 m
Vertical Drop: 925 m
The biggest story in the 1998 men’s downhill was the controversy over the course. After a test event had been held there the skiers felt that it was too short for a championship downhill. They requested that the start be moved higher up the mountain, but the Japanese organizers demurred, stating that this would take the course into an environmentally protected region. The Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) countered that many recreational skiers used that area and could not understand why the Olympic skiers could not race there as well. Eventually a compromise was reached with the course lengthened slightly. In fact, at a length of 3,289 metres, it became the longest men’s downhill in Olympic history.
However, starting the 1998 Olympic downhill was anything but easy, as the event, traditionally the first Alpine event at the Olympics, had to be postponed three times because of weather. It did not start until five days after it was scheduled. Though the course was not felt to be difficult, that failed to take into consideration the 7th turn, which caused 14 of the 15 non-finishers to fall or miss the turn, leading to their disqualification. France’s Jean-Luc Crétier was the third skier out of the starthouse, and posted the fastest time to that point. As contender after contender, including Austrian Hermann “The Herminator” Maier, met their fate on the seventh turn, Crétier’s time held up for the gold medal. Crétier was also helped by the absence of his former teammate, Luc Alphand. Alphand was World Cup champion in 1997 in the overall, the downhill, and the Super G, but he then abruptly retired and turned his attention to race-car driving. In 2006 he won the Dakar Rally, a year after placing second in that cross-country race.
|13||11||Kjetil André Aamodt||NOR||1:51.72|
|AC||19||A J Kitt||USA||–|