PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) Manuel Osborne-Paradis feels right at home on the Olympic course and it has little to do with finding the fastest line in Thursday’s first downhill training session.
Although, that does help with confidence.
Even more, the terrain doesn’t jar the Canadian’s balky back too much or rattle his surgically repaired left knee or even aggravate a ”grumpy” – his word – right one. The 1.8-mile (2.8-kilometer) course is not overly tricky and offers a rather smooth ride despite all the rolling bumps.
”It’s more about skiing it better than it is taking as much risk,” Osborne-Paradis said.
Osborne-Paradis finished in 1 minute, 40.45 seconds – he did say he missed a gate and there are no disqualifications in training – with Kjetil Jansrud of Norway only 0.31 seconds behind in second. Mauro Caviezel of Switzerland was third.
The downhill race is set for Sunday.
Most of the racers gave the course designed by Bernhard Russi, the Swiss downhiller who won Olympic gold in 1972, and shaped by Tom Johnston , the hay maestro/cattle rancher/snow guru from western Wyoming, a big thumbs-up.
”It’s nice. A lot of jumps, a lot of terrain,” said Jansrud, who captured the downhill test event at the venue in 2016. ”It makes it on the easier side of downhills, but still a difficult downhill. You need to be meticulous when you’re skiing.”
That was Austrian racer Hannes Reichelt’s assessment, too. He compared racing on the hill to a Swiss watch – with precision at a premium.
”You have to make the turns on the right part and bring the speed from the top to the bottom,” Reichelt said. ”It’s hard to ski fast here.”
And one mistake – even the tiniest of mistakes – can prove costly.
”You can’t afford putting out a hand and go a kilometer slower, because it’s going to cost you a medal,” Jansrud said. ”This is a race that’s going to be decided by the hundredths.”
The snow was described as ”aggressive,” meaning it’s grippy and the skis react faster. There are two more training sessions on the docket for racers to make adjustments and uncover more speed.
Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway will be one of the favorites on race day, but knows there’s plenty of work ahead. He was 20th in training, 1.81 seconds off the lead.
”It was my timing on the lines in places, some rolls I didn’t move the way I should,” Svindal said. ”On this snow, if you’re just a little bit out of rhythm, you need to pressure hard on the ski for the right line, and it’s really slow on this snow.”
The downhill track may not invoke the fear of the courses in, say, Kitzbuehel, Austria, or Wengen, Switzerland. But it won’t be a breeze, either.
”Good skiing is really, really going to show here,” said American racer Bryce Bennett, who finished seventh. ”It’s easy but challenging because it is a little bit easy.”
In other words: Mistake-free runs will be at a premium.
”For sure, it’s difficult because this kind of slope, it’s difficult to go fast,” French skier Adrien Theaux said. ”If you do one mistake, it’s over for you to be on the podium. You have to ski fast, but clean. On this kind of snow, it’s very aggressive snow. If you do one mistake, it’s over.”
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