KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Rider after rider took a crash course Monday night on an Olympic halfpipe that looked only half ready less than 24 hours until the men’s competition starts.
There were dozens of falls, very few big tricks and a lot of complaining during a practice session that was pushed from morning to night while workers tried to make fixes. The men’s event is today, and American Shaun White will be seeking his third straight gold medal.
“When you see every other person fall, you know something’s wrong,” said American Hannah Teter, who took gold in 2006 and silver four years ago. “It’s a little dangerous. I’ve seen more people fall today than I saw all season. It’s dangerous because it’s crappy.”
“It’s a bummer to show up to an event like the Olympics and not have the quality of the halfpipe match the quality of the riders,” American Danny Davis said.
“Anyone who watched practice can see there were a bunch of people bouncing around in the flat bottom.”
White called it “pretty hard to ride,” but said it was nothing riders haven’t dealt with at other competitions.
“The flat bottom is just sand and mush,” he said. “It’s pretty heavy. And once everyone gets in there, it just turns to mush.”
Riders said the steeply vertical pitch of the halfpipe has largely been corrected. But the bottom of the pipe is bouncy and slow. Dozens of riders clattered through the bottom, which slows speed and causes wrecks.
Davis said organizers told him they would treat the halfpipe with chemicals that keeps the ice frozen at higher temperatures. Highs were in the 40s on Monday.
American coach Mike Jankowski said riders were simply going to have to deal with the conditions.
“If everything were perfect every time and this were an indoor sport, we’d be figure skating,” he said. “Whoever deals with the conditions the best is going to win a medal and whoever gives up isn’t going to win a medal.”