New Olympic ski schedule in works
AP Sports Writer
WHISTLER, British Columbia – After postponing the first two Alpine events, the International Ski Federation is considering a revamped schedule for the Vancouver Olympics that would squeeze seven races into seven days.
Men’s race director Guenter Hujara revealed the tentative plan after the competition-opening men’s downhill was postponed Saturday because of warm, wet weather that’s turned the slopes to mush.
The downhill officially was shifted to 10:30 a.m. Monday, which originally was slated to be an off day.
The proposal then would keep the men’s super-combined on Tuesday, followed by the women’s downhill – U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn’s signature event – on Wednesday. The women’s super-combined, which originally was to be run Sunday and has been postponed indefinitely, would move to Thursday, another slot left open on the Olympic calendar.
The schedule then could pick up as normal, with the men’s super-G race Friday, the women’s super-G the next day, and the men’s giant slalom on Feb. 21.
After that, only three races would remain with a full week left of the Winter Games. The new plan, though, has not yet been confirmed.
“Our first concern,” Hujara said, “is having the best possible conditions and the best safety we can deliver for the athletes.”
Repeated snow, rain, fog and too-warm temperatures have turned the Olympic slopes into a soft, mushy mess too dangerous to be used for high-speed skiing. The forecast for the weekend called for a mix of rain, sleet and snow, although the weather is supposed to clear up sometime next week.
“It’s all going to work out,” Peter Bosinger, who oversees Alpine skiing at these Olympics, told The Associated Press. “Monday’s going to be a sunny day, and everyone’s going to be smiling.”
Only one of six downhill training runs for men and women was completed as planned so far, although a women’s downhill practice has been scheduled for Sunday. FIS spokeswoman Riikka Rakic said any approval of the proposed new schedule would have to wait until after seeing whether the women are able to get in a complete run Sunday.
So far just one woman, Italy’s Lucia Recchia, has had the chance to complete a trip down the official slope. Thursday’s training run was stopped after two racers left the starting gate – Recchia made it down safely, but Stacey Cook of Mammoth, Calif., crashed – and practice was canceled altogether for Friday and Saturday.
That’s why the women’s super-combined race had to be postponed: The event adds times from one downhill run and one slalom run, and rules require that each competitor gets at least one chance to ski the downhill course in practice before racing on it for real.
At least there are days sprinkled through the schedule with no races on tap, allowing for changes along the way. That’s done by design, because weather problems are nothing new to Alpine events at the Olympics – or to skiing in general.
At the 2006 Turin Games, for example, the women’s super-G race was pushed back 24 hours, and the combined event was split over two days. The start of Alpine skiing at the 1998 Nagano Olympics was delayed for two days, while the men’s and women’s downhills were both postponed at the 1984 Sarajevo Games.
Vancouver Alpine women’s race director Atle Skaardal made the case Friday that it would be unrealistic to expect to carry out the program on schedule at Whistler, given its typical weather. The ritzy resort used to be on the World Cup skiing circuit but was dropped after a series of washouts.
“The athletes in this sport are used to it. It doesn’t affect them,” Bosinger said. “They know that at some point they’re going to be racing. It’s more of a challenge for the spectators and broadcast than the athletes.”
At least one racer was thrilled with all of the disarray: Vonn, the two-time overall World Cup champion dealing with a badly bruised right shin.
The way she sees it, every delay translate to more time for her to heal and rest.
“I’m lucking out pretty heavily because of all the cancellations,” the American said Friday. “Normally I would be disappointed. But for my shin, I think, this is the best possible scenario.”
AP Sports Writers Andrew Dampf, Graham Dunbar and Pat Graham contributed to this report.
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