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Bad Weather Washes Out Downhill, Super-G Again

By Rob Gloster
Associated Press
Friday, February 13, 1998; 9:37 p.m. EST

 The women's downhill was called off barely after dawn, as rain soaked the finish area. (AP Photo)
HAKUBA, Japan — The Italian skiers had the right idea.

They ducked the rain and lightning that wiped out two more Alpine races, driving down the mountain to visit the Buddhist temple in Nagano and, quite likely, pray for better weather.

Rain, snow and lightning wiped out the women's downhill and the men's Super-G Saturday (Friday night EST), delaying Picabo Street's bid to become the first U.S. skier to capture two gold medals in an Olympics since 1952.

"I'm standing here with water in my pants,'' U.S. women's head coach Herwig Demschar said from the course where Americans trained for the slalom portion of the women's combined event.

The postponements mean organizers can toss the original schedule for the first week of Olympic Alpine events in the garbage. Not a single race has been run as planned so far, and four days have been complete washouts.

Now, with more bad weather on the way, organizers have to get out their pencils and start crossing out plans for the second week of these soggy Olympics.

Snow and rain were forecast to continue during the day. Then, after a dry night, the precipitation was expected to resume Sunday morning (Saturday night EST) and continue for another 24 hours.

"It gets to the point where now you just have to laugh," said Chad Fleischer of Vail, Colo., who is entered in the Super-G. "You don't really get mad. You just try to figure out what to do with your time instead of dealing with the frustration.''

"I'm going to Nagano. I'm going to watch a hockey game. I'm going to try to forget all about being up here in the rain, banging my head against the wall.''

The men's Super-G was reset for 10:15 a.m. Sunday (8:15 p.m. Saturday EST), and the women's downhill was rescheduled for 10:15 a.m. Monday (8:15 p.m. Sunday EST).

The downhill portion of the women's combined event will not be held Sunday as scheduled, and tentatively was reset for Monday (Sunday night EST) — an off-day on the original timetable.

The slalom portion of the women's combined event is set for Tuesday (Monday night EST).

The skiers are scheduled to move about 50 miles away to Shiga Kogen on Wednesday (Tuesday night EST) for slalom and giant slalom races. Gian Franco Kasper, secretary general of the international ski federation, said officials are not panicking.

"We still have Monday and Tuesday," he said. "We have the men's downhill out of the way so everything is fine. I'm serious. That was the big problem,'' he said. "If everything goes wrong, then we can still exchange races later in the week.''

The women's downhill was called off barely after dawn, as snow fell on the top of the course and rain soaked the finish area. The men's Super-G became a casualty two hours later, as lightning flashed through a gray sky.

Street, who won the women's Super-G, is among the favorites in the downhill. She won silver in the 1994 Olympic downhill in Lillehammer.

The only U.S. skier to win two races in an Olympics was Andrea Mead Lawrence, who as a teen-ager won the slalom and giant slalom at the 1952 Oslo Games.

Demschar said the delay should not bother Street and her teammates.

"She's doing fine. There's no problem,'' he said. "We are used to this.''

The postponements came one day after the oft-delayed men's downhill finally was run and the men's combined event was completed. The men's downhill was postponed three times.

There still is an open day at the end of the Alpine schedule on Feb. 22, the day reserved for the closing ceremony, a cross-country race and the men's hockey final. Organizers have said they will do whatever is necessary to complete all Alpine races.

It is likely that officials will have to schedule more doubleheaders, such as the downhill-combined downhill on Friday, to get in the rest of the Alpine program.

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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