Alpine skiers say steep Yanqing downhill slopes present challenge
BEIJING – Veteran Italian downhiller Christof Innerhofer and Austrian two-time Olympic champion Mattias Meyer say the steep slopes course for Sunday’s Olympic downhill present a tough challenge for the world’s best.
None of the skiers battling for gold in the races which begin on Sunday have ever taken on the slopes of the course which is 80 km (50 miles) outside of Beijing.
The pandemic meant that planned pre-Olympic test events were canceled and skiers arriving ahead of Thursday’s first downhill training session are taking their initial look at the venue.
“At first glance, it seemed to me a different track from World Cup ones,” Innerhofer said in comments reported by Gazzetta dello Sport.
“On a scale between 0 and 10 I would say that the difficulty of the descent is 7,” added the downhill silver medallist from Sochi in 2014.
The course is made up entirely of artificial snow and is set in hills without any natural snow in sight
Innerhofer said that while the course does not feature any major big jumps it has “several bumps” similar to the Olympic course four years ago at Pyeongchang in South Korea.
The Italian said that overall the Yanqing course, which has been designed by Swiss expert Bernhard Russi, should present more of a challenge than that offered in 2018.
Italy’s downhill coach Alberto Ghidoni warned that wind could be a disruptive factor and said the slopes certainly posed a challenge.
“It is not easy, they are very steep slopes,” he said, “They are not exactly tourist slopes even if they want to use them (later) to teach people to ski here,” he added.
“In addition to the wind, another factor to consider will be that of the skis. The first day the bottom seemed a bit ‘dirty’, as if there was sand in the snow, so the edge of the skis is at risk.”
Two-time Olympic champion Mattias Meyer of Austria also believes that the course won’t be an easy one for the speed specialists to negotiate.
“It’s as expected, the snow reminds me of North America. The terrain looks good, relatively steep, it should be challenging,” he said.
The male downhillers will have three days of practice on the slopes before the opening medal event on Sunday.
The women begin a day later on the technical slope with the giant slalom.
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