New snow on Sochi Olympic course cancels World Cup races
KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) -- Skiers and coaches complained there weren't enough workers to clean new snow off the 2014 Sochi Olympics downhill course on Thursday, forcing training for a women's World Cup race to be canceled.
There were about 200 slippers working on the Rosa Khutor course for the World Cup races - a major test for the games. Usually, there's twice that number at races.
"You can have 2,000 slippers and you still don't clean the snow, because the snow is sticking to the ground," said women's World Cup director Atle Skaardal. "It's like slipping water - you think you move it but it's still there."
Organizers delayed the start of the session by an hour, then called it off.
"The visibility is good but there's a lot of snow," giant slalom world champion Tina Maze told The Associated Press. "They need to do a lot of work, but I heard there's nobody on the course. I hope they wake up."
While the base of the valley was covered in fog, that didn't seem to be a problem up on the course.
"Actually, the visibility is not bad at all," said U.S. speed coach Chip White. "There's just a lot of snow and at the moment not enough people to clean it up."
Wolfgang Mitter, an Austrian who is coordinating these events for the Russian ski federation, saw things differently.
"There was no visibility the whole day, so even if we had a good slope we couldn't have had the training run today," Mitter said. "The weather changes very quickly here."
A third and final training session is scheduled for Friday before the downhill race Saturday and a super-combined Sunday. Lindsey Vonn leads the downhill and super-combined standings and could clinch both discipline titles this weekend.
In Wednesday's opening training session, most of the skiers were told to slow down before the course's two main jumps, meaning most athletes haven't had a complete run at full speed.
World Cup rules require one training session to be completed before a downhill race, and Skaardal said the race jury decided Wednesday's session counted.
"The jumps were (shaved) down, so I don't think they should worry too much about the jumps," Skaardal said.
Still, athletes were concerned.
"I don't know what yesterday was," Maze said. "I'm not sure what they're calling it. But for me it wasn't a real training session, because we stopped for the yellow flags."
Defending overall World Cup winner Maria Hoefl-Riesch would like to have a full-speed training run before the races.
"That's what I think, but you never know what they will do," Hoefl-Riesch said. "I hope there's not too much more snow coming."
While the weather improves Friday, more snow is forecast Saturday.
The situation brings to mind how bad weather wreaked havoc with the schedule at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, where there was no full training run for the women before the downhill medal race. Instead, the training was done in two parts - the upper portion one day and the bottom another, and skiers never went full speed over the final jump.
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