Vicious winds caused a string of crashes and complaints as America’s Jamie Anderson survived the chaos to clinch her second straight slopestyle snowboarding Olympic gold in treacherous conditions on Monday.
Nearly all the athletes – including Anderson – tumbled at some point at Pyeongchang’s frigid Phoenix Park, where strong winds forced Sunday’s qualifiers to be scrapped and also delayed the final for more than an hour on Monday.
The numerous falls – none of the athletes appeared to have been badly hurt – prompted grumbling that the final was allowed to take place at all.
It was just the latest event at the Games to be disrupted by the wind, with the prestigious men’s downhill skiing moved to Thursday after falling victim to the weather.
“So many people got hurt because of the wind already,” said Austrian snowboarder Anna Gasser, a day after 17-year-old Tess Coady, the youngest member of the Australian team in South Korea, was forced out after wrecking her left knee in training.
“Even yesterday, the practice we did in the morning was dangerous,” added Gasser after finishing 15th in the slopestyle.
Gasser called it “a lottery” and said: “I don’t think it was a fair competition and I’m a little disappointed in the organisation that they pulled through with it.
“From my point of view I think it was not a good show for women’s snowboarding.”
Britain’s Aimee Fuller, who finished down in 17th after crashing, branded them some of the toughest conditions she had competed in and said she had “no chance” of landing her last jump when she was caught by one strong gust.
“Conditions today were definitely a challenge. It was for sure not what I wanted, not what I expected, not what I dreamed of for my Olympic final,” said the 26-year-old, who was unhurt in the fall.
“There were huge gusts of wind – I’ve decided to call it the Pyeongchang Gust.”
Anderson, 27, became the first woman to win two Olympic snowboarding golds, despite briefly falling in her final run, with Laurie Blouin of Canada earning silver and Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi taking bronze.
But all the talk was about the wind, which coupled with the sub-zero temperatures made life tough for athletes and spectators.
In the build-up to competition, Britain’s Katie Ormerod and teenager Coady both suffered Games-ending injuries on the slopestyle course, which features high rails and huge jumps to negotiate in the swirling winds.
Coady ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), abruptly ending her first Olympics and leaving her facing several months on the sidelines.
She blamed the wind for the crash, writing on Instagram: “Well Olympics came to a screeching halt today for me… got picked up in the wind on the bottom jump in practice and my ACL was not a big fan!”
Ormerod was sidelined after breaking her heel in training — after earlier fracturing her wrist on the Pyeongchang course.
American Mikaela Shiffrin, one of the biggest names at the Pyeongchang Games, begins her bid to light up the olympics in alpine skiing on Monday.
The 22-year-old targets the giant slalom to launch her multi-medal campaign following on her gold medal win in the slalom at the Sochi Olympics four years ago.
AFP looks at five things to know ahead of Monday’s race.
Shiffrin tipped for a bagful
The opening giant slalom is followed by Shiffrin’s slalom title defence, the super-G, downhill, combined and team events. It is a schedule the American herself could have scripted to maximise her chance of bagging multiple medals. “But I’m not actually sure whether I’ll have the energy to do (all) that,” she says. “Right now I’m focusing on giant slalom and slalom and after that switching the focus to speed.”
Work, work, work
Shiffrin won slalom gold at the 2014 Sochi olympics in Sochi at the age of 18, a year after she won the first of her three consecutive world slalom titles. She admits that the last four years have passed in a haze. “It’s crazy how fast the time has gone,” she says. “It feels now like Sochi was yesterday. It’s insane how I can get to this place and, not forget, but not remember every single detail of how much work that we’ve put into it in the last four years to get to this spot and to have the opportunity to be able to compete in five events at these olympics.”
Rebensburg bids for second gold
Germany’s Viktoria Rebensburg is bidding for a second gold and third medal in the discipline having won in Vancouver at the age of 20 and picked up a bronze in Sochi. “The giant slalom is the most competitive for the women,” says Rebensburg, with only Italian Deborah Compagnoni having previously won two golds (1994, 1998).
Worley, La Squadra lurk
France’s reigning world GS champion Tessa Worley and a formidable Italian quartet, as well as Rebensburg, mean Shiffrin’s task is far from a fait accompli. “To be quite simple in what I’m doing is how I get to perform better, and then I have to stay focused in the moments when I really need to,” says Worley, born to a French mother and Australian father. Italy will be spearheaded by Soffia Goggia, accompanied by Federica Brignone, Marta Bassino and Manuela Moelgg.
Yongpyong, established resort
Unlike the purpose-built Jeongseon course, controversially carved through a forest for the men and women’s speed events, the Yongpyong venue has a longer history, dating back to 1975 and South Korea’s oldest and largest ski resort. Competition courses were constructed in 1998 for the 1999 Asian Winter Games. It has also hosted World Cup events in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2006.
Provided by AFP Sport
An earthquake triggered an alert and high winds disrupted competition at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics on Sunday, as officials warned of a severe freeze and urged fans to wrap up warm.
After a bitterly cold first night of competition, a shallow 4.6-magnitude earthquake jolted the eastern portion of South Korea overnight, prompting warnings on mobile phones.
Early on Sunday, ski officials were forced to postpone the showpiece men’s downhill until Thursday as buffeting winds made the high-speed slope too dangerous for competition.
Later, the women’s slopestyle snowboarding also fell victim to the wind, as the qualifying session was scrapped with riders going straight into the final on Monday.
It comes after the first ski jumping final finished more than an hour behind schedule, past midnight on Saturday, as competitors were held up by swirling winds.
As if to complete the set of extreme conditions, an alert warning of a high risk of fire – given the dry, windy weather – also flashed up on mobile phones on Sunday.
Organisers gave assurances that the Games were at no risk from earthquakes, with venues built to withstand even strong tremors. Sunday’s quake was measured at magnitude-4.7 by the US Geological Survey and was about 260 kilometres (160 miles) away.
“All the facilities in the Games area are built so they can withstand strong earthquakes over 7.0… so I assure you there was no issue regarding these facilities,” said Sung Baik-you, spokesman for the Games organisers.
Of more concern for the sparse crowds at the outdoor events will be the biting cold, which has already made Pyeongchang one of the chilliest Olympics on record – and which is set to dramatically worsen.
‘Wear hats and gloves’
Temperatures are forecast to plunge to -14 degrees Celsius (6.8 Fahrenheit) on Monday, will feel like a shivering -25C in the strong, mountainside wind.
“People are advised to dress warmly and wear hats and gloves to keep themselves warm,” warned Sung.
The wind has made life tough so far for competitors, with several athletes complaining of difficult conditions.
“The conditions were pretty crazy today just because of the wind,” said Canada’s Max Parrot, after finishing second in the men’s slopestyle snowboarding on Sunday.
“Sometimes we have front winds, sometimes we have tailwinds. I think we could all see the difficulty today in the runs.”
The men’s ski jumping was particularly unpleasant, as the athletes had to contend with freezing cold at the top of the hill as well as their nerves as the delayed competition dragged on.
“It was cold as ice up there,” said Austria’s Michael Hayboeck, who finished 17th, while Poland’s Dawid Kubacki said the wind made the competition “a lottery”.
“It was really bad for me, what I can do?” he asked. “It’s something I have no influence on. I need to jump in the conditions when they let me go.”
However, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said the ski jumpers were never in danger.
“Athlete safety is our number one concern,” said spokesman Mark Adams. “All these venues are organised in very close contact with the federations.
“We’re very, very confident the federations and athletes know what they can and can’t do.”