Winter Olympics: Fog forces men's downhill training to be delayed
By GRAHAM DUNBAR
AP Sports Writer
WHISTLER, British Columbia — Fog forced the first men’s downhill training run to be delayed after Didier Cuche of Switzerland posted the fastest time on the Olympic course.
Only 42 of 87 scheduled racers had completed the Dave Murray course in persistent light snow Wednesday as fog rolled across the top half of the mountain.
Race officials extended the session time into late afternoon, trying to get the final 45 skiers down the 1.93-mile track.
Olympic rules demand that all racers complete the course on the same day for it to count as an official training run.
Cuche, who has a broken right thumb, was fastest in 1 minute, 53.22 seconds, 0.29 seconds faster than Robbie Dixon of Canada. Ambrosi Hoffman of Switzerland trailed by 0.55 in third.
Cuche had surgery Jan. 30, getting a titanium plate and seven screws after falling in a World Cup giant slalom race.
“I know that it’s not really painful; it’s just bothering a little bit,” said the 35-year-old Swiss, who resumed training Monday. “Today with the concentration it was really like I felt nothing.”
Dixon said the Canadians have taken advantage of exclusive access to train on the Olympic course.
“We definitely had a lot of time and practice on this track over the last four years,” Dixon said. “With the weather coming in this might be our only chance, so I definitely tried to take advantage of the early number and search for that race line.”
Canada’s Manual Osborne-Paradis, who is strongly fancied to give the host nation a medal, was sixth-fastest trailing Cuche by 0.96.
Bode Miller of the United States placed seventh, a further 0.02 behind after a steady run. The majority of skiers in the Olympic field have never raced a competitive downhill at Whistler.
Officials halted the session after 40 racers had gone, then allowed two more to go before ordering a second, lengthy delay when poor visibility jeopardized skiers’ safety.
“We’re really, really trying our best to get this run off, but we’re not going to run if it’s not safe,” International Ski Federation official Mike Kertesz told The Associated Press.
Three training runs are scheduled before Saturday’s medal race, but rain and heavy snow is forecast for Thursday and Friday.
The downhill gold medal race cannot take place until one official training run is complete.
Olympic rules demand that all racers complete one full training run on the same day before a gold-medal race can take place.
“With the present forecast right now, it would be great to have this run in to insure that we can run our downhill according to decision,” Kertesz said. “At this point we’re on complete standby waiting for the weather.”
Whistler has a long-standing reputation for poor weather affecting races because of fronts coming in off the nearby Pacific Ocean. World Cup race weekends were canceled in three straight seasons from 1996-98 before the venue was removed from the schedule. But it must be noted that those canceled races were scheduled during the area’s toughest weather months of November and December.
Two years ago, the World Cup returned to Whistler in February for official Olympic test events, and all of the races got off without a hitch.
The women are scheduled to begin downhill training Thursday on the adjoining Franz’s Run.
Their first medal race is the super-combined — comprising a downhill run followed by a slalom leg — scheduled for Sunday.