Training for the women's downhill was delayed by more than an hour today, after the first three skiers down the course complained that one particular jump was way too intense, with one of them injuring both knees. Why wasn't this caught in testing? That's sort of embarrassing, actually.
It seems the course was tested by forerunners who couldn't match the speeds that the actual competitors would hit, so when they went off the hump near the finish, they didn't catch nearly as much air and didn't notice it would be a problem.
"I'm upset they didn't have more expert forerunners," said Italian Daniela Merighetti, who injured both knees upon landing and was visibly furious after her run. "They would've known not to send us down."
American Laurenne Ross was the first woman down the course: "You're welcome, I'll be your test dummy," she said. Upon hitting that last hump, she said, "you feel like you're never going to come down." She complained to organizers, as did the next skier, Italy's Verena Stuffer. Then, when Merighetti hurt herself on the same spot, organizers called a halt to training so the hump could be shaved to cut down on airtime.
Even skiers who hadn't gone down yet were flabbergasted that this was even an issue.
"It's unfortunate that in a way the racers are the testers," Mancuso, who was third quickest behind Austria's Fenninger and Swiss Fraenzi Aufdenblatten, said.
"It would be a lot better if we had decent forerunners but that's always been an issue on our tour and it's not much fun."
Liechtenstien's gold medal hope Tina Weirather agreed that slow forerunners had been a factor in the stoppage.
"They were going 20mph slower than World Cup skiers, who were then jumping 45 metres which is not good," she said.
The three initial skiers were given the opportunity to go down the remodeled course a second time. Only Ross took them up on the offer.
Both the men's and women's downhill courses are notably difficult at these Olympics, with competitors throwing out descriptors like "risky," "unrelenting," "harrowing," and "intimidating." But the two scariest and most exciting words when used in tandem are simply "technical" and "fast." The men were hitting speeds above 90 MPH just seconds into the run, and fewer than half of the top skiers were able to stay on course the whole way down.
This is becoming distressingly common as Olympic athletes get better and faster—the track at the Whistler Sliding Centre in Vancouver was modified after multiple training crashes early in the 2010 games, including one that caused the death of Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili. At least there's no mortal danger here, and the skiiers sounded pleased with the course's challenge once that final jump was taken care of.