Winter Olympics: After delays, new Olympic ski schedule set up
AP Sports Writer
WHISTLER, British Columbia — After postponing the first two Alpine events, the International Ski Federation revamped the schedule for the Vancouver Olympics to try to squeeze seven races into seven days.
The plan came about after the competition-opening men's downhill was postponed Saturday because of warm, wet weather that's turned the slopes to mush.
The downhill was shifted to 10:30 a.m. Monday, originally an off day.
The new lineup keeps the men's super-combined on Tuesday, and the women's downhill — Lindsey Vonn's signature event — on Wednesday. The already-postponed women's super-combined moves from Sunday to Thursday, another slot left open on the Olympic calendar.
The schedule then would revert to normal: men's super-G race Friday, women's super-G the next day and men's giant slalom Feb. 21.
After that, three races would remain with a full week left in the Winter Games. There are still days that have no training runs or medal events scheduled, leaving extra space to fill should the weather continue to cause problems.
"We're still very confident that we're going to do it — get everything finished," Vancouver Alpine women's race director Atle Skaardal told The Associated Press. "You can't see into the future. I can't see into the future. So I can't give you a sure answer."
Repeated snow, rain, fog and too-warm temperatures have turned the Olympic slopes into a soft, mushy mess too dangerous to be used for high-speed skiing. The forecast for the weekend called for a mix of rain, sleet and snow, although the weather is supposed to clear up sometime next week.
"It's all going to work out," Peter Bosinger, who oversees Alpine skiing at these Olympics, told the AP. "Monday's going to be a sunny day, and everyone's going to be smiling."
Only one of six downhill training runs for men and women was completed as planned so far, although a women's downhill practice has been scheduled for Sunday. Because there is a 50 percent chance of rain or snow Sunday — and Skaardal said precipitation is the biggest impediment to a good course at this point — officials aren't optimistic that practice will come off.
So far, only one woman, Italy's Lucia Recchia, has completed a trip down the official slope. Thursday's training run was stopped after two racers left the starting gate — Recchia made it down safely, but Stacey Cook of Mammoth, Calif., crashed — and practice was canceled altogether for Friday and Saturday.
That's why the women's super-combined race had to be postponed: The event adds times from one downhill run and one slalom run, and rules require that each competitor gets at least one chance to ski the downhill course in practice before racing on it for real.
Weather issues are nothing new to Alpine events at the Olympics, of course — or to skiing at Whistler, for that matter.
At the 2006 Turin Games, for example, the women's super-G race was pushed back 24 hours, and the combined event was split over two days. The start of Alpine skiing at the 1998 Nagano Olympics was delayed for two days, while the men's and women's downhills were both postponed at the 1984 Sarajevo Games.
Skaardal has been saying it would be unrealistic to expect to carry out the program on schedule at Whistler, given its typical weather. The ritzy resort used to be on the World Cup skiing circuit but was dropped after a series of washouts.
"The athletes in this sport are used to it. It doesn't affect them," Bosinger said. "They know that at some point they're going to be racing. It's more of a challenge for the spectators and broadcast than the athletes."
At least one racer was thrilled with all of the disarray: Vonn, the two-time overall World Cup champion dealing with a badly bruised right shin.
The way she sees it, every delay translates to more time to heal and rest.
"I'm lucking out pretty heavily because of all the cancellations," the American said Friday. "Normally I would be disappointed. But for my shin, I think, this is the best possible scenario."
AP Sports Writers Andrew Dampf, Graham Dunbar and Pat Graham contributed to this report.