Men's downhill postponed until Monday

By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, February 14, 2010; D05

WHISTLER, B.C. -- Dawn hadn't even broken Saturday when officials from the International Ski Federation considered the slopes at Whistler Creekside, evaluated the slush that covered them, and knew there was no hope of opening the Vancouver Olympics with a fair and safe men's downhill race. That event was promptly scrapped, and with warm, wet weather continuing on the mountain, it was unclear when the Alpine skiing competition might begin.

The men's downhill was rescheduled for 10:30 a.m. PST on Monday, when it will still be the first Alpine event of the Games. The women's super combined, originally scheduled for Sunday, was postponed Friday afternoon because the women had not yet been able to train and is now pushed to Thursday. Officials hope the women can get in a training run -- a prerequisite for racing -- on Sunday.

That possibility, though, seemed iffy at best. Whistler is susceptible to warm weather, even in winter, and the mountains nearly 80 miles north of Vancouver have been engulfed, at various points over the past week, by rain, fog and -- at higher elevations -- some snow. Rain and snow showers are again forecast for Sunday, though no precipitation is expected Monday.

Still, racers spent Saturday sitting, not skiing.

"I think we all have experience dealing with that," American Marco Sullivan said. "It [stinks], but that's part of our sport. We're always outside."

The Alpine schedule, with five medal events for men and five for women, spans nearly the course of the Games, and there are four days without races built in -- including Monday, which was to be the first without competition. The schedule, officials said, was designed with potential weather delays and cancellations in mind.

"We do have room in the schedule," said Renee Smith-Valade, vice president of communications for the Vancouver Organizing Committee. "We usually have two to three contingency days built in, both for training and competition. Generally we're able to reschedule the event within one or two days, so so far, our plan is working well."

The delays continue to be a positive development for Lindsey Vonn, the American who was expected to contend for multiple gold medals but arrived here dealing with a painful shin injury. Each day that's washed out means another day of rest.

"She got lucky again today," Thomas Vonn, Lindsey's husband, wrote in an e-mail.

With the super combined -- a race that adds together the times from a downhill run and a slalom run -- pushed to Thursday, Vonn's first event of the Games might be her best, the downhill. The women are scheduled to stage their fastest event on Wednesday. Vonn has won five of the six World Cup downhill races staged this season. In the two super combined events this season, she has one win and one third-place finish.

Staff writer Tracee Hamilton contributed to this report from Vancouver, B.C.

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