Monday, 12 February 2018 11:21

Slopestyle competition never should have been held in massive winds

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PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Women’s snowboarding is better than this. It’s a progressive, exciting time in the sport with riders pushing the boundaries of what’s possible more than ever before.

 

Not that anyone would know that from watching the Olympic slopestyle final Monday.

Run in some of the worst conditions the riders could remember, the contest featured far more crashes than landed runs as the women battled strong gusts of wind from changing directions.

“I don’t know why we weren’t asked and I don’t know why it was ran, to be honest,” said Canadian Spencer O’Brien. “Because no one wanted to go.”

Ultimately, they did, with American Jamie Anderson winning a second consecutive gold medal, while Canada’s Laurie Blouin took silver and Finland’s Enni Rukajarvi got bronze.

All are talented riders, but they would concede the weather was a factor.

The riders compared it to a lottery. Get a break in the wind, and you could put down a run. Get a gust of it, and there goes your chance at an Olympic medal.

“The conditions changed a ton from first to second run,” said Anderson. “Lots of speed issues, lots of getting caught in the gust. It was super unfortunate.”

The final at Phoenix Snow Park on Monday was already affected by the weather, with winds causing organizers to postpone the qualifying round that was scheduled for Sunday.

Instead, all athletes advanced to a two-run final. From there, it was a crapshoot as to whether they could land runs.

After 25 riders had gone through their first runs, only five had landed them. Dealing with winds, a handful bailed on a jump. The rest fell.

“I'm happy no one got injured in the contest,” said Austrian Anna Gasser. “I'm glad nothing happened to me today. It could have went the other way."

That’s really the saving grace for the International Ski Federation, which makes the determination on running the competition and started it here Monday after a 75-minute delay.

Someone could have gotten hurt, and badly. FIS is lucky that didn’t happen. Asked about the windy conditions Monday before the competition, IOC spokesman Mark Adams repeatedly said athlete safety is the IOC’s priority.

But even without catastrophe, the federation did these riders a disservice. In what should have been a showcase for a progressive time in the sport, all that was displayed is the shoddy decision making of sports officials.

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