Men hold downhill training; fog halts women’s runs
AP Sports Writer
WHISTLER, British Columbia (AP) – The Olympic men’s downhill now has at least has a chance of being run as scheduled Saturday. The women still face problems for their first race, Sunday’s super-combined.
Despite thick fog and heavy snow that limited visibility, the men managed to get in a full training session Thursday.
The women’s training was canceled after only two racers took to the Olympic course. One of them – Stacey Cook of the US – crashed after landing a jump and was flown by helicopter to a medical facility. Injury details were not immediately available.
Women’s overall World Cup leader Lindsey Vonn was pleased with the cancellation because it gives her bruised right shin more time to heal.
“We’ve heard a lot about Whistler weather, and we welcome it at this point,” said Vonn’s husband and chief adviser, Thomas. “It’s probably not popular but we welcome it.”
Rules require that at least one training session be held before a downhill or super-combined race and more bad weather is forecast for the next few days.
“If they had a training run yesterday, they would’ve said today you know what take the day off,” said veteran downhiller Marco Buechel of Liechtenstein. “They needed this one.”
Michael Walchhofer of Austria led the men’s session, speeding down the shortened Dave Murray course in 1 minute, 34.46 seconds.
Having won the downhill World Cup title three times, Walchhofer has had a relatively difficult time this season. His best finish in the discipline is a third-place result in Bormio, Italy, in late December.
Walchhofer was ninth in the opening session a day earlier before it was canceled when fog prevented the final 45 skiers from starting.
“Today I tried a little harder and it was better,” the Austrian said. “It’s not so difficult a course but it’s difficult to be fast.”
Whistler local Robbie Dixon placed second, 0.09 seconds behind, and fellow Canadian Erik Guay was third, 0.22 back.
The Canadians have had unlimited access to the Dave Murray downhill for years, and it’s showing.
“We’ve skied in everything – from sun to flat light to rain to snow,” Dixon said. “We’ve seen (the course) in everything. As a whole group, we’re ready for whatever Whistler has to offer on race day.”
Provisional leader Didier Cuche of Switzerland was disqualified for missing a gate. Cuche led Wednesday’s session before it was wiped out. Defending overall World Cup winner Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway placed seventh and Bode Miller was right behind in eighth.
With bad weather forcing organizers to schedule both men’s and women’s training at the same time, the finish of the men’s course was moved up the mountain so it would not conflict with the women at the finish.
Both courses end in the same spot.
The session was similar to Wednesday’s, with heavy snow and near whiteout conditions at several points along the course.
Racers are hoping for better conditions Saturday.
“The only thing that will make it unfair is the weather,” said American downhiller Marco Sullivan, who was 49th. “Hopefully it will be the same for everybody. With fog coming in and out like this, that would not be ideal on race day.”
As soon as all 89 men’s racers got their chance to ski, organizers called off the women’s session.
Lucia Recchia of Italy was the only skier to make it down safely. The next starter was Cook, who was airlifted to treatment as a precaution, the team said.
Two more women’s training sessions are scheduled for Friday and Saturday before Sunday’s super-combined race. The women’s downhill is scheduled for Feb. 17.