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Fog rolls in, forces Olympic scheduling changes

Tue., Feb. 18, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia – Nate Holland didn’t have a foggy mountain breakdown Monday at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park.

The outspoken Sandpoint rider praised officials for postponing the snowboard cross competition until this morning because of dense fog.

“It’s the Olympics, we want to have the best riders win, and not having anything screwy,” he said of the latest weather problem to enshroud the Sochi Games.

A cool, white mist blanketed the snow-spotted hillsides Monday, forcing the postponement of the men’s snowboard cross and the 15-kilometer biathlon mass start until today.

The snowboard seeding runs have been cancelled and the 39 competitors will automatically advance to the elimination round, with seedings based on the world rankings.

Holland, 35, supported the decision to wait for better weather in a sport pitting four riders racing a challenging course that often leads to NASCAR-type crashes.

“When I first inspected the course, you think what you’re going to go off these features and you can’t see anything,” he said. “You’d have to ride by braille.”

For a week, athletes from the halfpipe to the alpine ski slopes have fretted over soft snow and substandard conditions because of spring-like weather in a subtropical zone perhaps not ideal for the Winter Olympics.

Now they just can’t see the course with a San Francisco fog clinging to the forest-strewn mountains.

Weather almost always plays a role in the scheduling of Winter Olympics mountain events. In Sochi, organizers have had to reschedule competition and training sessions because of warm weather, strong winds and, now, fog. In addition to the events postponed Monday, the weather has affected alpine skiing, ski jumping and Nordic combined.

“We’re not complacent, but winter sport is very unpredictable,” said Mark Adams, International Olympic Committee spokesman. “It is a dynamic field of play.”

Tahoe freeskier David Wise had no complaints about the halfpipe after training Sunday.

“The fog rolled in, but the pipe was the best it has been,” he told reporters. “It stayed really consistent and cold. Honestly, it has gotten better and better. It’s looking good” for today.

After inspecting the course Monday, Holland was confident he could handle it.

“But there’s that screwiness factor that no visibility adds,” the three-time Olympian added.

Holland is a Winter X Games star who has had nothing but bad luck at the Olympics. He got knocked down on the jumps in previous two attempts and hopes to survive for the first time.

International Ski Federation officials originally cancelled the seeding runs Monday, hoping for afternoon clearing. Instead, the fog went in and out, making it risky to try to hold the event.

Faye Gulini, who finished fourth Sunday in women’s snowboard cross, said while such postponements are not unusual, they make preparation difficult. She said it’s not easy to get in race mode when the decision to start keeps changing.

“It’s good they are not going to have to race with that kind of kabobbled mind,” Gulini said.

Holland wasn’t about to let a whiteout spoil his sunny disposition.

“That was a free high going up the chairlift,” he said of getting to the start. “I was getting pumped. It was just a dress rehearsal. We’ll be back tomorrow and let it roll from there. … Time to drop the hammer and the sickle on this course.”

Holland has not lost his inner child, but he has grown with experiences, such as rallying to make the U.S. Olympic team less than a month after fracturing his shoulder last year.

He probably wouldn’t have complained had officials held the race. But the snowboarder appreciates the decision to allow the best riders to win without adding an additional factor.

“We’re going to be going big off those jumps, and it’s nice to be able to see where you going,” Holland said. “There would be issues the whole way down. You would just have to nut up and fly.”


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