June 19th, 2024

Wind cancels men’s World Cup season opener after 47 starters with Austrian skier Schwarz leading

By Eric Willemsen, The Associated Press on October 29, 2023.

SOELDEN, Austria (AP) – Strong winds forced the cancellation of the season-opening men’s World Cup giant slalom Sunday after 47 of the 73 skiers in the first run had started.

Gusts high up on the Rettenbachferner glacier initially prompted organizers to lower the start gate, which reduced run times by nearly 10 seconds.

As winds on the course became too strong, the jury interrupted the race after 47 starters, before calling it off as conditions failed to improve.

The International Ski and Snowboard Federation said the race was canceled “due to the extreme wind at the moment and the forecast with increasing wind for the rest of the day, for safety and fairness to all racers.”

FIS race director Markus Waldner said the race will be rescheduled, with date and venue likely to be announced in the coming days.

It is the third time in the last seven years the race had to be canceled because of strong winds.

Austrian skier Marco Schwarz was leading the race, underlining his ambitions to compete for the World Cup overall title.

Schwarz had a near-flawless run to lead defending overall champion Marco Odermatt by 0.29 seconds. The Swiss skier, world and Olympic champion in the discipline, won 12 of the last 18 World Cup giant slaloms, including season openers in 2021 and 2022.

Alexis Pinturault of France and Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway were the only other racers to finish within six-tenths of a second of the Austrian’s time.

“It’s disappointing for me, of course, but you cannot ski in these conditions,” said Schwarz, who could have become the first Austrian winner of the race since Marcel Hirscher triumphed in 2014.

Starting his World Cup career as a slalom specialist, Schwarz has developed into an all-round skier, who plans to start in as many races as possible across the four disciplines this season.

Odermatt was just ahead of Schwarz at all splits before losing 0.58 seconds on the flat final section.

“It just didn’t go forward, probably I pushed too hard,” Odermatt said.

An hour before the race, climate activists from the Last Generation movement blocked the only mountain road up to the glacier as three protesters sat down for about 20 minutes, holding up fans in shuttle busses and cars trying to get to the venue.

The incident did not affect the skiers, who had made their way up the hill earlier.

“Celebrating World Cup is not a crime, government’s climate ignorance is,” Last Generation wrote on X, the social network previously known as Twitter, as they urged the Austrian government to speed up its measures against climate change.

The women had their season opener on the same hill in perfect sunny conditions on Saturday, with Lara Gut-Behrami winning the GS.

The next men’s events are the Zermatt-Cervinia downhills in Switzerland and Italy on November 11-12, the first cross-border races in World Cup history.

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Eric Willemsen on Twitter: https://twitter.com/eWilmedia

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AP skiing: https://apnews.com/hub/skiing

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