Men's downhill at Beijing Olympics postponed because of wind

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BEIJING — The men's downhill at the Beijing Olympics was postponed because of wind that gusted at up to 40 mph at the top of the course when the race was supposed to start Sunday, delaying the opening event of the Alpine schedule.

No new date was announced immediately.

"It was obviously too windy to race, so that's the call," said Travis Ganong, a 33-year-old American who finished fifth in the downhill at the 2014 Sochi Games.

"I've been a downhiller for my whole career and this is part of the sport," Ganong said. "We've gotten good at this: the waiting game."

The first women's race — the giant slalom — is scheduled for Monday, with Mikaela Shiffrin of the United States defending her Olympic gold from 2018.

At the top of the speed course known as The Rock at Yanqing Alpine Skiing Center, the wind was deemed too dangerous when Sunday's men's race originally was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m.

The start was delayed three times for a total of three hours in the hope that the wind would relent. But eventually the decision was made at 1 p.m. to put it off to another day, instead of trying to run the race at 2 p.m. By then, part of the issue was that the light would be fading, with sunset expected shortly after 5:30 p.m.

The racers, meanwhile, spent hours waiting and now need to recalibrate.

"You've got to try to stay focused and try to stay mentally there, but also you have to turn it off, because if you're always focused the whole day, then it's really hard to keep your energy up. You use all this adrenaline and it's gone by race time," Ganong said. "Now I need to go get some wind in my face, and just kind of connect with the mountain again, get some snow under my feet and just kind of reset."

Wind was also an issue for Alpine skiing four years ago at the Pyongchang Games, where multiple races were postponed and the schedule was shuffled repeatedly.

Saturday's third and final downhill training session for the men was stopped after just three skiers because of wind.

None of the world's top racers had ever seen the course until the first training run on Thursday. The usual pre-Olympic test events were scrapped because of the coronavirus pandemic.


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Andrew Dampf and Daniella Matar


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