Mikaela Shiffrin's Olympic debut was delayed Wednesday for a second time by poor weather. The US slalom star was scheduled to compete in the slalom which was postponed due to high winds at the Jeongseon Alpine Center. Photo: AFP

Wind causes alpine chaos as slalom postponed


The alpine skiing program at the Olympics was thrown into chaos on Wednesday with the postponement of a third event, the women's slalom, because of strong winds.

"Due to the current weather situation, today's slalom is postponed to Friday, February 16," the International Ski Federation (FIS) announced.

The two legs of the slalom will be raced either side of the men's super-G, at 10 a.m. and 13:15.

Strong winds buffeted the Rainbow course in Yongpyong, forcing organisers to delay the start then call it off altogether.

It means another delay for defending slalom champion Mikaela Shiffrin's opening appearance in South Korea, the American star having seen the giant slalom postponed on Monday.

The GS was rescheduled for Thursday, with the two legs to be raced either side of the men's downhill.

The blue riband downhill was also postponed Sunday because of high winds and an unfavorable weather forecast which saw the cancellation of Monday's downhill training for the men's combined event.

So far the only race to have gone ahead is the men's combined on Tuesday, Austrian Marcel Hirscher winning his first Olympic gold on the Jeongseon course.

But that race was also disrupted. The downhill section of the combined was also affected by blustery winds, officials moving the start gate down to the start of the super-G. The so-called blue "wind line" was also used to reduce jumps by up to 15 meters.

Wednesday's postponement meant disappointment for a good crowd that had gathered at the foot of a piste that links back into Yongpyong, South Korea's oldest ski resort, dating back to 1975.

With North Korea's Kim Ryon-Hyang due to start in the 83rd and final position on the first leg, the stands were buoyed by the presence of dozens of her country's Olympic cheerleaders.

Dressed in their red uniforms with red and white woolly hats, the cheerleaders' chanting and flag-waving quickly geed up the atmosphere, until the FIS announcement of the postponement sent the crowds draining away in an instant.

Given that skiing is an outdoor event, at the mercy of the elements, its Olympic program is always designed with contingencies at hand.

The 11 medal events are run over 17 days, the scheduling allowing FIS to be able to tinker with the line-up. That normally means bringing forward more technical events like slalom and giant slalom which can be raced in heavy snow and also often in wind.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said it had faith in FIS, adding there was "plenty" of time left for the competition.

"If the wind continues to blow for the next 15 days, then I guess it might be a problem," said IOC spokesman Mark Adams.

"But... the International Ski Federation is well used to disruption by wind, by too much snow, by too little snow, by too much rain... At the moment we're pretty happy."

There is no doubt, however, that FIS will be desperately hoping the winds that have been pummelling the South Korean venues soon dissipate.

© 2018 AFP

©2018 GPlusMedia Inc.

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I think it sucks, and it must be very hard (and devastating if they lose later as a result of the stress/fatigue of postponement, etc.) for the athletes, but there's not a lot you can do about it. We're going to see a whole lot worse if there's a heatwave during the 2020 Olympics. In winter, you can't really hold it at any time besides the coldest season, and it's no one's fault this year has been insane. I've heard numerous Japanese colleagues angry about the cancellations and postponements actually blame South Korea and their Olympic Committee, as though it's their fault, in some cases forgetting that a few days before they were worried about relatives in Fukui Prefecture stuck in cars after snowfalls the area hasn't seen in 37 years.

Hope they can hold the events without any further interruption, but better safe than sorry, and we saw sorry with the women's snowboarding heats at first.

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The perils of outdoor sports

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