Freezing winds blow penultimate day of Beijing Olympics off course
High winds forced the postponement of the last alpine skiing event at the Beijing Olympics on Saturday and made for treacherous conditions on a bone-chilling penultimate day of the Games.
US ski star Mikaela Shiffrin's hopes of ending her disappointing Olympics on a high were blown off course with the mixed team parallel forced back to Sunday.
But more wind is forecast for Yanqing, north of Beijing, on the final day and if it ends up being cancelled it would be only the second time in Winter Olympics history that an event could not take place during the Games.
The last, according to AFP's database, was the 10,000 metres speed skating event at the 1928 St Moritz Games.
The International Ski Federation (FIS) is conscious that some competitors had planned to fly out on Sunday.
"It was pretty clear with the wind gusts it wasn't possible to stage the race," said FIS communications director Jenny Wiedeke.
The time squeeze presents a fresh headache for the International Olympic Committee and local organisers, who were already reeling from a doping scandal surrounding teenage Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva.
The team parallel is the last opportunity for Shiffrin, who won slalom gold in 2014 and 2018, to leave China with a medal.
She misfired in the individual events in the Chinese capital, skiing out of three races and finishing out of the medals in two others.
The strong winds also forced the cross-country skiing men's 50-kilometre mass start to be shortened to 30km. Added to the mix were temperatures of minus seven degrees Celsius (19 degrees Fahrenheit) in the mountains.
"Overall I can say that when the conditions are harder, this is in my favour because when it is harder, it is easier for me," said Russian winner Alexander Bolshunov.
It gave Bolshunov his third gold of the Games -- to match the colour of his ski shoes.
"I was given these shoes. I was told, 'here they are, take them, because you deserve them'," said Bolshunov, who also has a silver and a bronze.
- 'Weather defined competition' -
Nico Porteous defied the elements to claim only New Zealand's second gold in Winter Games history and in the process ended American David Wise's eight-year reign as freeski halfpipe champion.
Snowboarder Zoi Sadowski Synnott had given New Zealand their first ever Winter Olympic gold earlier in the Games and Porteous made it two with an inspired first run at Genting Snow Park.
The 20-year-old came out on top in a wild final battered by high winds, but also took a tumble on his final run that left him bleeding from his ear and nursing a sore shoulder.
But he had already done enough to win thanks to his first-run score of 93.00 and he was given a congratulatory haka by his New Zealand team-mates.
"In our sport, especially on a day like today, it's anyone's game," said Porteous.
The competition featured several high-impact wipe-outs in the tricky conditions, including one on the last run for American Aaron Blunck that delayed Porteous's celebrations.
Wise, who settled for silver, said the weather "defined the competition".
Britain's Gus Kenworthy, who won freeski slopestyle silver in 2014 while representing the US, came eighth as he bowed out from the Olympics for good.
Kenworthy, who had criticised the decision to award the Games to China, fired a parting shot at the IOC and the host nation.
"It was never that I thought China couldn't put on a good Games -- I absolutely knew that they could and they have," said the 30-year-old, who is openly gay.
"But when there are human rights atrocities happening in the country and a poor stance on LGBTQ rights, then those things need to be taken into consideration by the IOC."
Sweden denied Great Britain their first gold medal of the Games when their curlers beat the Team GB quartet 5-4 in a thrilling final.
With just over one day of action left, Norway topped the medals table with 15 golds, with Germany second on 10 and the United States third with eight, the same number as China.