February 9, 2018 / 3:02 AM / 8 months ago

Contenders call for fair downhill as 'stupid' wind hits Jeongseon

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Organizers need to do everything possible to ensure that the Olympic men’s downhill is run in good conditions, leading medal contenders said on Friday after high winds disrupted the second training run for Sunday’s race.

Alpine Skiing – Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics –Men’s Downhill Training – Jeongseon Alpine Centre - Pyeongchang, South Korea – February 9, 2018 - Banners are seen. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

The traditional curtain-raiser to the Alpine skiing program at the Winter Olympics, the downhill is scheduled to take place on Sunday when winds in excess of 30 knots (55.6 km per hour) are forecast for the Jeongseon Alpine Centre.

Friday’s training session was delayed by 30 minutes and was run on a shorter course because of gusting winds at the top of the mountain.

Norwegian Kjetil Jansrud posted the second best time after benefiting from tail-winds and said maintaining the integrity of the competition was paramount if the race needed to be rescheduled.

“The message we got is that they want to do the downhill from the top in fair conditions,” said the 2014 Olympic Super G champion.

“I’m thankful to hear that because that’s the way it should be in the Olympics. We do have reserve days and if it’s more windy than today, the gondola’s not going to run so then we have a major problem and (the race) is not going to happen.

“If that happens, I hope they give good consideration before running it because if there are tail-winds, it will have a huge impact on the race.”

International Ski Federation (FIS) chief race director Markus Waldner said at Friday’s team captains’ meeting that organizers were prepared for a lot more disruption over the next four days and planning accordingly.

The option of shifting the downhill forward to Saturday has already been ruled out by the International Olympic Committee so it looks like the program will have to be rejigged.

Waldner said organizers would proceed with planning to race on Sunday with the first alternative being to move it to Monday at noon local time, between the two runs of the women’s giant slalom at the Yongpyong Alpine Centre.

If they were unable to run the downhill before Thursday, then it would replace the Super G in the schedule with the other speed race shifting to Friday, currently a rest day.

“Today was right at the limit but okay for a training run,” Waldner said. “We have some challenging days ahead.”

Weather disruptions are commonplace in Alpine skiing both on the World Cup circuit and at the Olympics, and organizers always give themselves plenty of room for adjustments.

“The wind is always stupid for us because firstly it makes the race a bit unfair and secondly it also makes it dangerous,” said Germany’s Thomas Dressen.

“But I am certain we will not start if it is dangerous and I think they will stage a fair race.”

Canada’s Manuel Osborne-Paradis said dealing with the weather went part and parcel with competing in an outdoor sport.

“The weather happens - in and out of clouds, the wind, snow picks up, whatever,” he said.

“You push out of the gate, you do your best for two minutes and all the stars have to align anyway... The only factor you’re in charge of is how you ski.”

Additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan; editing by Amlan Chakraborty

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