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NEWS FEATURE Athletes battle through the cold and wind in Pyeongchang By Andre Leslie, dpa

Europe, Europa
12.02.2018
By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Temperatures at this year‘s Pyeongchang Games are the coldest they have been in more than two decades of Olympic competition and strong winds are also unrelenting. It‘s no wonder that athletes are struggling.

Pyeongchang, South Korea (dpa) - Winter sport athletes are used to tough conditions but icy temperatures and strong winds in Pyeongchang have tested even the most experienced hands over the last few days.

Temperatures on Monday in Pyeongchang were still below minus 10 degrees Celsius, with the mercury unlikely to rise much above that until Wednesday, according to local organizers.

To protect against the cold, alpine skiers are wearing tape across their faces to protect their skin as they train, while some cross country athletes have been spotted with special air warmers in their mouths to help protect their lungs as they prepare.

A number of night events have seen wind chill levels drop to below minus 20 degrees, like during Sunday‘s 10 kilometre sprint in the biathlon.

Italy‘s Dominik Windisch had his fingers and hands taped against the cold to help with his shooting, as he picked up bronze on Sunday.

"It was really cold. The wind was not easy," the Italian said after the race late Sunday. "In these conditions anything is possible."

Only four out of the 87 race starters managed to shoot without mistake at the event, well below normal levels. A day earlier, three out of 87 female athletes were mistake free with the rifle.

The icy wind gusts are also dangerous for athletes taking part in events where they have to get airborne.

In the snowboard slopestyle, where competitors move down a course over obstacles and a number of high jumps, Canadian snowboarder Max Parrot said that the wind was a "big challenge."

"We saw it with many runs, like my first two jumps," the eventual silver medallist said. "On my second jump, I crashed. I was going full speed on it but just not making it to the landing.

"Many of the riders were having great trouble too. Sometimes it was back wind, sometimes front but fortunately on my last run the wind was with me."

But it has been the alpine events have been worst affected so far in Pyeongchang, with the men‘s downhill and the women‘s giant slalom both postponed until Thursday, by which stage conditions are meant to improve.

Three-time Olympian Luc Alphand, who skied in one of the coldest Olympics in recent times in Lillehammer in 1994, described the conditions on the slope at Yongpyong Alpine Centre on Monday as "impossible."

"The first factor is the wind," the Frenchman said. "It‘s really too strong."

"The second thing for the racers is the temperature. OK, you can manage it; the restaurant (athlete warming area) is not too far from the start but, anyway, you‘re freezing cold after the inspection already."

"There‘s no way to ski," he added. "Some days you have to stay - not in bed - but you have to stay home."

 

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