First ladies DH training in Sochi more a high-speed inspection

15 February 2012 11:16

SOCHI, Russia – The first downhill training of the women’s World Cup on the 2014 Olympic course ran more like a high-speed inspection than a valid training on the brand new Rosa Khutor course Wednesday.

Wearing bib No. 1, Italian Johanna Schnarf was the only racer to get a taste of the course as it was originally prepared and consequently landed the fastest time, 1 minute, 49.78 seconds, although she, like several other racers, missed a gate at the top.

“It’s a nice course, but it’s not so easy as we thought,” Schnarf said. “The ground is full of bumps, nice jumps, it’s really interesting. I was really, really high on the first jump. It was windy, too. After me, they stopped and fixed it a little bit.”

The jump – called “Devil’s Spine” was shaved a bit for the ensuing racers and after bib No. 2 – Norwegian Lotte Smiseth Sejersted, who finished third in training, 0.05 seconds after Schnarf, missing the same gate at the top – due to the strong gusts of wind at the top, officials waved the yellow flag for racers to slow down before the jumps. Thus, the finish times were all over the place.

Wearing bib No. 15, Lindsey Vonn did not put on the brakes for the yellow flags. Standing up before the finish line, she crossed the line 0.01 seconds behind Schnarf with no missed gates.

“I didn’t stop,” Vonn said. “The coaches said if you feel like there’s a head wind to stop. I felt a head wind, but I didn’t stop. It was not a perfect run, but OK for first training.”

The women arrived into Sochi Tuesday evening and made it to Rosa Khutor around 10 p.m. where they were greeted by live music and singing in the hotel. With the three-hour time difference, Wednesday came quite early.

About the course:

The consensus among racers is that the ladies course, which measures 2,760 meters in length and like the entire Rosa Khutor ski area was built from the ground up for the 2014 Games -  is much more challenging than they expected coming into it.

“All in all it’s really difficult, especially the top section,” Maria Hoefl-Riesch said. “Everyone said, ‘yeah, Sochi is so easy and so flat.’ It’s not, it’s really lots of terrain, even the flat parts are with may rolls, so it’s really challenging. Today you can’t really count it because everyone had to stop before the jumps, probably some did it more or less, so it was really a first test.”

“I heard from the Europa Cup girls who were here last year that it was really easy, but it’s actually challenging,” Smiseth said.

With temperatures above freezing on Wednesday the snow on the course, especially the lower part, was spring-like.

“There is everythin on this course – steep parts, it’s very turny on the steep part – then it could be very, very fast with some harder snow,” said Marie Marchand-Arvier. “Now it’s like spring snow.”

Vonn said the midde part of the course with the bumps and rolls was the part she liked best. She described it from start to finish as follows:

“The top is really steep. You have three really big swinging technical turns, which bring you into a compression and a bumpy side hill, then it totally drops out from underneath you. It’s like a big waterfall turn – I actually got pretty good air off of it – which brings you into a big traverse. It’s really bumpy and rattly in there. That’s where everyone’s having all the problems. They’re missing the timing on the next right-footer after the traverse. The next two gates are really swingy. I got pretty late there, but I managed to make all the gates. That brings you to another compression and five gates on the flats, then you’ve got your first jump and then there’s a meadow section with a bunch of big rollers, then it’s like a 90-degree turn off the last jump, then you carry your speed from the pitch to the finish.”

There was hope for harder snow conditions for the first two trainings, but the forecast is calling for a storm – either rain or snow – Wednesday night into Thursday. Two more downhill trainings are scheduled for the ladies on Thursday and Friday and racing is set to kick off Saturday with the downhill and a super-combined on Sunday.

Go here for video with racers describing the Sochi course.

by Shauna Farnell

go here for training results