Downhill: Wind is the only winner

Gust of wind at the finish stadium

Gust of wind at the finish stadium

The World Cup Downhill on the Saslong had to be cancelled after only 21 racers, due to very strong winds which made racing impossible. At the time of the cancellation the two Frenchmen Johan Clarey and Adrien Theaux were in the lead.

High winds forced the cancellation of the World Cup Downhill on the Saslong. Already before the start of the race the jury moved the starting point 30m lower because strong winds had been predicted. The first ten racers started in good weather conditions, but then the strong gusts of
wind caused a number of interruptions. The athletes with the bib numbers 8 (Patrick Küng), 9 (Adrien Theaux) and 10 (Johan Clarey) made the most of the literal “calm before the storm” and produced the three fastest times. As it turned out in the end, all for nothing. It is understandable that Clarey in first position was not happy with the decision to cancel: “I don’t think it would have been dangerous. The piste was not too fast, the jump at the Camel Humps didn’t go too far. A continuation of the race wouldn’t have been fair, because not everybody would have started under the same conditions, but that wouldn’t be the first time that that happens. We have finished so many races under difficult conditions. I don’t agree with the cancellation of the race. Adrien and I skied very well. We were surely lucky. If it weren’t for two Frenchmen in the lead, the race probably would not have been cancelled.”

FIS Race Director Günter Hujara explained that there was no alternative to the cancellation: “The wind conditions kept changing which made a smooth race impossible. We interrupted the race, sent forerunners down the race track, but to no avail. The conditions became unpredictable. That is why
the jury decided to stop the race, to avoid ugly crashes. It was a decision to guarantee the athletes’ safety. For the jury it is sometimes the same as for a football referee when he makes the wrong decision and gives a penalty, but here we are talking about safety. I can understand that for
some this is not a good decision, but the athletes’ safety has absolute priority.”

Klaus Kröll, the last skier to race down the Saslong before the suspension, agrees with the jurys’ decision: “The wind conditions were very diverse. It is good that the jury decided to cancel the race.” Even yesterday’s Super G winner, Beat Feuz, is of the same opinion: “With this wind one had no chance. From a sporting point of view the cancellation was correct:  I had no trail and no visibility. The slightest bumps jolted me, that’s not normal. At the Start we heard that there were wind gusts every two minutes. The Camel Humps jump takes you far and high. That jump would have been far too dangerous in these high winds. It is best for everyone that the race
has been cancelled.”

The organizers had not expected the wind to be the spoil sport. Until yesterday, Friday, the organizers were kept on their toes by the snow. Before the race week there was barely enough snow, then fresh snow fell on the perfectly prepared piste and forced the race track team to a night
shift on the Saslong. More than 100 hundred men were on duty last night to clear the piste from 10cm fresh snow. When the slope was once again ready, the wind came. The rest is history and the Jubilee Downhill race has been postponed until 2012.