Final men's Olympic downhill training cancelled due to high winds
The final training run for the men's Olympic downhill was cut short Saturday because of high winds that blew pre-race favourite Aleksander Aamodt Kilde 60 metres (200 feet) into the air on his run.
Just three racers -- Norway's Kilde, Austrian Matthias Mayer and Christof Innerhofer of Italy -- came down the 3.1 kilometre (two-mile) "Rock" course before organisers called it a day, to the disgruntlement of some racers unable to take to their skis.
Kilde said the gusts of wind were "coming from every direction" and had propelled him into the air on some of the five jumps that punctuate the man-made course on artificial snow.
"Due to the present weather situation with high winds and no window in the forecast for decreasing winds, in the best interest of safety the jury together with the organisers have decided to cancel today's (training run)," a statement read.
According to the official forecast, the wind made the minus 19.5 degrees Celsius (minus 3.1 degrees Fahrenheit) temperature feel like minus 28.3C.
The medal race for the downhill, one of the most prestigious Winter Olympic titles, is scheduled for 0300 GMT on Saturday, when similar windy and cold conditions are expected.
Racers completed the first two training runs on Thursday and Friday without problem, and Kilde said it was a "pity they sent three guys and then made the decision".
"We could have waited for a bit," argued Switzerland's Marco Odermatt, the World Cup overall leader and one of Kilde's main rivals.
"To allow three skiers to come down, including two favourites, then cancel training at 11:15 am without waiting for midday, I find regrettable.
"For sure it is a little bit of an advantage. Like this, it's probably not super fair. But anyway with the wind it won't be the fairest race anyway.
"Still, on an Olympic track where everything is new, you really want to have the same amount of training."
- Dangerous jumps -
Of his third training run, Kilde said: "It’s fun to ski but with the wind it’s kind of crazy because you gain so much speed in some places and then you suddenly lose speed."
He was thankful he was "in balance" when he was propelled into the air. "Thank God for that," the 29-year-old said.
"It’s never dangerous when you're in balance, but if you lose balance and you get even worse wind than I got, then anything can happen and that’s a risk.
"Usually we can have jumps like that but that’s usually the jump that makes it far, not the wind."
Kilde added: "It's pretty obvious here that the wind is an issue and maybe we get some results we don’t usually see, but if you are consistently fast and in shape it will go well for you anyway and at least you have the biggest chance to win."
The decision to allow three racers down before cancelling did not, however, sit well with France's Matthieu Bailet.
"It's really pathetic, very unfair," he said. "We saw there was a lot of wind, but we're not beginners, we know how to manage our skis, risk, pressure."
Bailet's teammate Johan Clarey, at 41 the elder statesman of the men's elite ski circuit and an official representative of the skiers, admitted it was a "big problem" that the whole field had not had a chance of testing out the course for a third time.
"I tried talking with FIS but they were having none of it," Clarey said.