Calm forecast clears way after long wind delay
JEONGSEON, SOUTH KOREA — Show time in the Olympic men’s downhill is today — four days later than planned.
Calm air and cloudy skies are forecast for Jeongseon, where the snow surface is harder and faster after a pounding by strong winds since Sunday’s original start date was postponed.
“It will be show time,” race director Markus Waldner told The Associated Press on Wednesday, expecting respite from gusts up to 45 mph. “We will see some big action.”
The favorites remain the same: world champion Beat Feuz of Switzerland, plus Norway teammates Aksel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud, who were both among the four fastest in a short downhill section of Tuesday’s com-
The fastest man Tuesday was Thomas Dressen, riding a tailwind down the mountain. As if for good luck, the German racer has again chosen to wear the No. 1 bib, scheduled to start first at 11:30 a.m.
Feuz’s team picked first and took No. 5 for him. Norway played a waiting game, taking No. 7 for Svindal and No. 9 for Jansrud. Leading the American chal- lenge, Bryce Bennett will start at No. 14.
Five of the past 10 men’s
Olympic downhill champi- Close races ons were without a win in Men’s Olympic downhills World Cup races, including tend to be close, and so was Matthias Mayer of Austria Tuesday’s rehearsal in the at the 2014 Sochi Games. combined event.
“Any given day, anything Dressen was only 0.07 can happen,” said Svindal, seconds faster than Svindal, a perennial favorite who and 0.13 ahead of Mayer. got downhill silver in 2010 Four years ago, Mayer and was fourth in 2014. took gold only 0.06 sec
Why? Svindal’s best theonds faster than Christof ory is that Olympic titles Innerhofer of Italy — trans- are usually won on courses lating to a mere 5½-foot not raced on the World win n ing margin down Cup circuit, so are unfa- the longest-ever Olymmiliar to all. pic course. Jansrud, the
Some recent greats — bronze medalist, trailed Bode Miller, Didier Cuche, by only 0.10.
Hermann Maier — were It was even tighter on the never Olympic downhill 2010 Vancouver Olympic champions. podium. Didier Defago of Switzerland was 0.07 ahead of Svindal, and Bode Miller was 0.09 behind in bronze.
The race could be won and lost on tiny details tough to identify on first sight.
“It’s going to be a race of perfection,” said Manuel Osborne-Paradis, the Canadian veteran of four Olympics.
The 15/6-mile course is not too steep — top speeds hit around 78 mph — and if the wind subsides, does not often throw racers off balance.
It does launch them off four jumps and demands a precise line to carry speed across the side hills and through turns.
Austria is almost an underdog despite winning seven of 18 men’s down- hill titles at the Olympics.
Still, most prerace talk is about other nations.
Yet Austria will field a typically deep four-man team consisting of skiers who each placed on a podium in World Cup downhills since December.
Joining Mayer are 2017 world championship bronze medalist Max Franz; Hannes Reichelt, a multiple World Cup down- hill winner; and Vincent Kriechmayr, who won Saturday’s final official practice.
Two veteran medal contenders, Svindal and Reichelt, can set Olympic age records.
Svindal, who turned 35 in December, and Reichelt, whose 37th birthday was in July, would be the oldest Olympic champion in any Alpine event.
The record is held by Reichelt’s longtime Austria teammate Mario Matt, who won slalom gold at the 2014 Sochi Games one month before his 35th birthday.
Bryce Bennett will lead the United States contingent in the men’s downhill today in Jeongseon, where the snow surface is harder and faster after a pounding by strong winds.