PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) — Fierce wind forced the Olympic men’s downhill to be postponed Sunday, moving the marquee race from its traditional place opening the Alpine program.
The first race on an 11-event Alpine schedule was shelved three hours before the start time at the Jeongseon hill, and organizers said they would now try to hold the men’s downhill on Thursday.
“It’s imperative with fair conditions and I applaud the decision. Thanks,” Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, one of the gold medal favorites, wrote on Twitter .
Racers risk being blown off a safe racing line on a course where they hit speeds of about 125 kph (75 mph).
“Very strong winds, with gusts up to 72 kph (50 mph), that are forecast to continue all day have forced the jury together with (the Pyeongchang organizing committee) to postpone the event,” the International Ski Federation (FIS) said.
On Monday, the women’s giant slalom with Mikaela Shiffrin will be the first Alpine medal race.
Some top downhillers, including Jansrud, are now scheduled to begin their pursuit of Olympic medals in the Alpine combined event on Tuesday.
More strong winds are forecast for Monday, so a training event for the downhill portion of the combined also was canceled.
Race organizers said the only gondola lift carrying teams and officials up the mountain had to be closed early Sunday.
“We kind of expected this downhill to be postponed due to wind, but at the same time the guys were charged up and ready to go,” U.S. men’s head coach Sasha Rearick said. “With this being an outdoor sport, it is not abnormal.”
Organizers previously suggested the men’s downhill could start Monday, at around midday between two runs of women’s giant slalom staged at nearby Yongpyong. That option was wiped out by the weather.
The first available reserve day in the Alpine program is Friday. The men’s super-G had been scheduled for Thursday but was pushed back a day to let the downhill run first.
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