Italian Christof Innerhofer topped Friday’s second men’s downhill training as Olympic racers battled tough conditions in alpine skiing’s blue riband event.
Innerhofer, who won downhill silver and combined bronze in Sochi four years ago, clocked 1min 18.97sec down a course shortened because of high winds atop the Jeongseon course.
It could prove to be an invaluable ski out, with weather conditions threatening Saturday’s third training and a potential rescheduling of Sunday’s actual downhill race, although nothing has been officially confirmed.
“It was very windy from behind on the track, I took the good wind with me, it blew me down!” said the 33-year-old Innerhofer.
Innerhofer, who has form on the mountain having finished second in the super-G in the test World Cup event two years ago, has struggled to bother the podium on a regular basis since his Sochi showing but insisted he still had something to offer.
“Sometimes I think about Sochi, especially when I go back home after every race and see my medals, it’s good memories,” he said.
“But I’m still here, because I want to live for the future, not the past. I would like to win.
“Sometimes I think maybe I can’t keep up with the best guys like I was years before, but I still try to believe and to give my best.”
Innerhofer predicted few surprises come race day here “because this slope is different from last two olympics. It will be skiing quick for known racers like Jansrud”.
Kjetil Jansrud, who won super-G gold and downhill bronze in Sochi as well as giant slalom in Vancouver in 2010, finished just behind Innerhofer but didn’t put much stock in the rankings.
“It’s not a training run that tells you very much,” he said, listing the shortened course, the shifting tailwind and a shaved down last jump.
Jansrud expressed his hope that the downhill would be held over a full course rather than an abbreviated one, and in “optimal conditions”.
“The message we got was that they wanted to do a downhill from the top in fair conditions,” he said.
“I’m thankful to hear that because that’s the way it should be in the olympics and we do have reserve days.
“If it’s more windy than today, the gondola is not going to run so then we have a major problem for everybody and it’s not going to happen.”
Canada’s Manuel Osborne-Paradis, who topped Thursday’s first training, said he had “no worries whatsover about the weather, we live in an outdoor sport”.
“If we were worried about the weather we’d have been screwed a long time ago when you’re like 10, 11, 12 years old,” he said.
“In and out of clouds, the wind, snow picks up, whatever – you push out the gate and you do your best for two minutes and all the stars have to align anyway, that’s the only factor you’re in charge of is how you ski.”
Jansrud’s Norwegian teammate Aksel Lund Svindal, a three-time medallist in Vancouver, said the field was wide open.
“On any given day, anything can happen. Downhill in the olympics is any given day,” the 35-year-old said.
“On any World Cup it’s hard to predict the winner… but here there’s one downhill every fourth year and then it really gets a lot of focus and if there’s a prize you remember it longer.”
Austria’s defending Olympic champion Matthias Mayer said the course was “much easier” than the icy challenge that was the downhill in Sochi.
“It’s going to be so close on Sunday as a result,” said the 27-year-old, who upset a host of favoured rivals to claim a shock win before he’d even claimed a World Cup downhill victory.
“It’s always so, so special for all of us.”
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