The International Ski Federation has defended its decision to go ahead with the women’s snowboard slopestyle final on Monday despite gusting winds at the Phoenix Snow Park.
Qualification was cancelled on Sunday due to the windy conditions and in the final many riders crashed on at least one of their two runs.
Britain’s Aimee Fuller, who crashed on her second run after being caught by a gust of wind, said she felt “lucky to be in one piece” afterwards.
FIS head of communications Jenny Wiedeke was asked if the event should have gone ahead in the conditions at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics daily briefing on Tuesday.
She said: “We know there were adverse weather conditions but FIS officials monitored training extremely carefully.
“In the final itself the officials watched the wind conditions very carefully throughout. No athlete is forced to go down and compete.”
Wiedeke, asked about athletes making advsere comments about the conditions after competing, said: “The bulk of the reaction was in the mixed zone rather than directed towards FIS officials.
“I spoke to my race director. He said only one team came to him to say something (about the conditions). It wasn’t a protest that was registered. They just went to the race director and voiced their concern about the wind conditions.”
Wiedeke was not willing to say which team had registered its concern.
Alpine skiing events have been postponed and rescheduled due to the high winds and Wiedeke was asked why the same decision had not been made for the slopestyle final.
“We are talking about two venues that are separated by 50kms,” she said.
“I was at the alpine venue yesterday. It is at 1,500 metres on exposed mountainside. The Phoenix Snow Park is at 700 metres. The winds at the alpine venue were pretty much so strong that you couldn’t stand up straight. So it was a very clear decision (to postpone).
“We were also able to hold ski jumping (on Monday) which is extremely wind sensitive. Weather conditions are very localised.
“Ski jumping has very precise thresholds (for wind strength). They have wind measuring equipment. For our other disciplines it is up to our sport and technical experts to assess the conditions. We have a very experienced group of technical officials that make these decisions.”
America’s Mikaela Shiffrin will have to wait until Thursday to kick off her bid for multiple Olympic medals after the opening women’s giant slalom was postponed Monday because of strong winds.
“Due to strong winds and the weather forecast, today’s giant slalom is postponed,” FIS announced.
It was rescheduled for Thursday, with the two legs to be raced either side of the men’s downhill, FIS confirmed.
The blue riband downhill was also postponed Sunday because of high winds and an unfavourable weather forecast which saw the cancellation of Monday’s downhill training for the men’s combined event.
The forecast for the Yongpyong course, where the women’s giant slalom would have been held, was for another bitterly cold day on Monday, with temperatures of -16 degrees Celsius (3.2 Fahrenheit).
That will be accompanied by winds gusting at up to 18m peer second, lending a truly glacial chill.
“The weather forecast is not great in terms of wind,” Atle Skaardal, chief race director for women’s FIS races, admitted Sunday as he ran through initial planning for the giant slalom.
At the Jeongseon course used for speed events, the winds were so strong that the gondola used to take racers and officials up the mountain could not run for safety reasons.
The women are also reliant on a gondola, the 3.7km-long Rainbow lift.
The opening giant slalom was to be followed by Shiffrin’s slalom title defence on Wednesday and the super-G on Saturday, with the downhill, combined and team events to come in the second week of competition.
The 22-year-old Shiffrin could realistically target four of five medals at the Games, but will face stiff opposition from the likes of France’s Tessa Worley, the reigning world giant slalom champion.
“I’m a little surprised,” Worley said of the postponement.
“They told us that the Olympic giant slalom was going to be held. I was really stoked for it.
“No matter how windy it was outside, I was ready.”
Worley, who was also crowned world GS champion in 2013, added: “The decision has been quickly taken. We’ll just get back to the Olympic village as quickly as possible.”
Romain Velez, head coach of the French women’s team, said snow conditions were “very good”.
“But there’s an enormous amount of wind. It was dangerous because it was moving the gates around.
“It was a wise decision,” Velez said.
“We were expecting to experience a tough day. Finally they decided quite early on to postpone it.
“We’ll take our foot off the pedal and head off straight away to prepare to come back when the race is rescheduled.”
Mark McMorris said on Monday that his bronze medal was “a miracle” after the inspirational Canadian climbed onto the Olympic podium just 11 months on from a near-fatal snowboarding accident.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hailed McMorris’s “tenacity” and “courage” as the 24-year-old drew praise following his success in the slopestyle event at the Pyeongchang Winter Games on Sunday.
McMorris was fighting for his life in a medically induced coma in March 2017, after breaking 17 bones and suffering a collapsed lung and ruptured spleen when he slammed into a tree while out on his snowboard with friends.
He somehow survived and in his comeback to competition, a big air World Cup in Beijing in November, he triumphed.
Then on Sunday he added bronze to the one he won at Sochi four years ago to seal a stunning return from near-death.
“To land a good run and stand on the podium again, it definitely feels special,” said McMorris.
“It’s definitely a miracle and I’m really thankful.”
McMorris, raised on the flatlands of the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, tends not to look too far ahead these days but admits that psychologically he is not over the traumatic events of 11 months ago.
“I was so close to not being able to snowboard again and nothing brings me the joy that snowboarding does,” he said.
“I just want to keep having success in competition and get back into the backcountry and face that fear again and enjoy that with my buddies.”
Within the snowboarding fraternity McMorris has long been well known, winning multiple X Games titles, but his recovery from his deathbed has brought him far greater fame now.
“It’s such a cool thing that people are backing the story, you can’t force that on people,” he said.
“At the time I wish it hadn’t happened, but now it’s so cool that so many people have reached out and said, ‘You’ve helped me through this part of my life’ or motivated me, or whatever it may be.
“I’m glad I can play that role and feel lucky to be in the position I’m in, being able to inspire others.”