JEONGSEON, South Korea (AP) — Canadian downhiller Erik Guay called it “awesome.” American racer Travis Ganong raved over “Olympic-caliber” conditions. Even Christof Innerhofer, the Italian who only likes the most difficult of challenges, was satisfied.
The completely new downhill course developed for the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics got mostly favorable reviews Wednesday from World Cup skiers testing it for the first time.
“It’s going to be awesome,” said Guay, the 2011 world champion. “It’s got a lot of turns back and forth. There’s no true gliding section. But there’s some nice jumps and pretty good snow. lt will be a nice downhill.”
Racers were allowed to free ski the course without gates, so many of them wore snow pants and jackets.
“It’s hard to get the feel when there are no gates in but most of the people tried going in the line,” said Kjetil Jansrud of Norway, who won the season-long World Cup title in downhill last season. “There’s a lot of stuff going on, a lot of jumps, a lot of terrain.”
The course in Jeongseon features four jumps, a couple of them designed to launch skiers into the air for 50 to 60 meters (45-55 yards), and is 2.8 kilometers (1.7 miles) long.
“There are no areas to go straight in, so it’s not bad,” said Innerhofer, who won a silver medal in downhill and a bronze in combined at the 2014 Sochi Games.
The World Cup downhill and super-G races Saturday and Sunday are the first of 28 official test events for the next Winter Games.
The Alpine races were only confirmed last month following concern that a key gondola would not be completed in time.
“It’s a big success that we are here. Actually, we are really happy to be here because we have much better conditions than in Europe,” World Cup race director Markus Waldner said, referring to a wave of cancellations in the Alps due to warm weather and a lack of snow.
With a good forecast, organizers decided to hold off on official timed downhill training sessions until Thursday and Friday.
“It’s super dry here and cold and sunny — so it’s really similar climate to Beaver Creek (Colorado),” Ganong said. “It’s definitely Olympic-caliber conditions.”
The downhill venue is located about a 45-60 minute ride along a road slowed by construction from the Alpensia resort where the athletes are staying.
“It’s 45 minutes of sitting in the bus,” Guay said. “Just go to sleep, no big deal. It’s all in your attitude, right? If you’re a little bummed about it and you’re not feeling it then you’re not going to feel it.”
Organizers apologized for not having a gym prepared in the athletes’ hotel.
“There is a gym. It’s just not ready. I saw them setting bikes up and gym equipment yesterday,” said Canadian racer Manuel Osborne-Paradis. “You come here knowing what you’re going to get. It’s a test event. It’s nice to add the ‘world’ into the World Cup instead of just hanging out in Europe all year.”
American racer Andrew Weibrecht was also impressed with the course designed by 1972 Olympic champion Bernhard Russi.
“There’s quite a bit of terrain and jumps and it’s pretty turny,” said the two-time Olympic medalist in super-G. “It will probably be about hitting the terrain right so you can transition onto the flats well. It’s a lot of steep to flat transition.
“There’s a lot of turning. So there’s a lot of opportunities to make mistakes.”
Andrew Dampf, timesunion.com