Crash, bang, wallop — high winds disrupt Olympics

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

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Pyeongchang , South Korea (AFP) — High winds caused havoc at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Monday as the women's slopestyle snowboarding final descended into chaos and alpine skiing suffered its second postponement in as many days.

Almost all competitors crashed in the women's slopestyle final at a windswept Phoenix Park, where strong gusts forced the cancellation of Sunday's qualifiers and delayed Monday's final by more than an hour.

It came after ski chiefs called off the women's giant slalom and rescheduled it to Thursday — the same day as the postponed men's downhill.

The windy conditions contributed to an icy chill in Pyeongchang's mountains, where forecast temperatures of -15 degrees Celsius (5 Fahrenheit) were due to feel like -25.

Several snowboarders voiced their unhappiness at the gusting conditions at Phoenix Park, and complained that the slopestyle final should have been postponed.

“So many people got hurt because of the wind already,” said Austria's Anna Gasser, calling the competition a “lottery”.

“I don't think it was a fair competition and I'm a little disappointed in the organisation that they pulled through with it.”

Britain's Aimee Fuller, who finished 17th after crashing, branded the conditions among the toughest she had competed in and said she had “no chance” of landing her last jump when she was caught by a strong gust.

“There were huge gusts of wind — I've decided to call it the Pyeongchang Gust,” said the 26-year-old.

Even the gold medal winner Jamie Anderson, who defended her title from 2014, fell during her run. Two women suffered competition-ending injuries on the course in training.

Separately, organisers said fans who couldn't make the rescheduled alpine ski finals, which are among the showpiece Winter Olympics events, would be entitled to refunds.

They admitted the wind disruption was a “headache” — but said it was too early to talk about extending the Games beyond its scheduled final day of February 25.

“I think it's a little bit early to discuss that yet,” said International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams.

“I think Nagano (1998) had the downhill five minutes before the closing ceremony so there's plenty of time; there's reserve spaces for competition.”

Adams admitted it was difficult to rejig a packed schedule, but said the IOC usually accepts the advice of individual sports federations when it comes to postponing events.

“The main thing for us is the athletes' safety. Each federation has a wealth of experience on their sport and we really bow to that,” he said.

“Of course we have to coordinate the whole schedule; it's quite a headache, getting all the different sports to run in a different way. But obviously we would never take a decision that would put in jeopardy the safety of the athletes.”




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