PYEONGCHANG: The blue riband men’s downhill, scheduled to open the Olympic alpine skiing programme, will be raced Thursday after high winds forced its postponement Sunday.
“Due to the strong wind and unfavourable forecast for today, the men’s downhill is postponed,” the International Ski Federation (FIS) announced.
“The jury has decided to switch the official programme and has rescheduled the men’s downhill for Thursday, February 15, and the men’s super-G on Friday, February 16,” FIS said, with the downhill set to start at 0200 GMT.
The downhill training for the men’s combined event scheduled for Monday has also been cancelled.
It is not the first time Mother Nature has played havoc with the best-laid plans for alpine skiing at the Olympics.
Four years ago in Sochi, the latter part of the programme was rescheduled because of poor weather while the downhill in Vancouver in 2010 was put back two days because of heavy snow and rain.
The downhill at the 1998 Nagano Games was rescheduled on three occasions, also because of heavy snow and rain.
Just prior to the postponement, FIS said the “hill is closed to everyone”, meaning that the gondola that transports athletes, their backroom staff, timing and course officials up to the Jeongseon slope would not be running.
Luckily for the male racers, they managed to get three downhill training sessions in under their belts, racing the third in similarly gloomy weather forecasts that eased at the last minute.
Given that skiing is an outdoor event, at the mercy of the elements, its Olympic programme is always designed with contingencies at hand.
The 11 medal events in Pyeongchang are run over 17 days, with racers having to have completed at least one downhill training run in order to be able to compete in the downhill proper.
The scheduling allows FIS to be able to tinker with the line-up, often bringing forward more technical events like slalom and giant slalom which can at a push be raced in heavy snow for instance.
“We kind of expected this downhill to be postponed due to the wind, but at the same time the guys were charged up and ready to go,” said Sasha Rearick, the men’s alpine head coach of the US team.
“With this being an outdoor sport, it is not abnormal.”
Rearick said racers now have to “harness (energy), stay relaxed, and then be able to ramp back up”.