Men's downhill rescheduled for Monday

WHISTLER, British Columbia -- The men's downhill event at the Vancouver Olympics has been rescheduled for Monday after officials postponed the race due to slushy conditions hours before it was scheduled to begin.

Rather than take a chance Saturday and try to see if the weather improved, organizers called off the first Alpine race at the Olympics shortly after 4 a.m. local time, about 7½ hours before it was scheduled to start.

The race will now be held at 10:30 a.m. PT Monday.

Repeated snow, rain, fog and too-warm temperatures have turned the Olympic slopes into a soft, mushy mess too dangerous to be used for high-speed skiing. The first women's event, the super-combined, was supposed to be Sunday, and the decision to postpone that was made Friday.

FIS, the governing body for skiing, said snow and rain throughout Friday night, along with expected mild temperatures during the day Saturday, made for poor skiing conditions. Highs on the course were expected to be in the 40s, and a mix of rain, sleet and snow was likely.

Officials likely will try to get women's training in Sunday.

With its location close to the Pacific Ocean, bad weather has always been an issue in Whistler.

For three consecutive years in the mid-1990s, the World Cup ski circuit came to the Canadian resort and failed to get a single race off. It wasn't just a case of calling off a particular downhill or super-G; entire weekends had to be scrapped. Eventually, Whistler was removed from the World Cup circuit.

Mother Nature proved to be a problem again this time. Only one of six training runs for men and women has been completed as planned.

The opening men's downhill training session on Wednesday was abandoned after thick fog prevented half the field from starting their runs. Then a shortened men's session was completed Thursday and Friday's session called off.

Only two skiers -- one of whom crashed -- started the opening women's training on Thursday before it too was abandoned. Lucia Recchia of Italy made it safely down Franz's Run but the No. 2 starter, Stacey Cook of Mammoth Calif., lost control and slammed into the safety netting at high speed.

Women's training sessions on Friday and Saturday also were called off.

Rules require that at least one complete training session be held before any downhill or super-combined race, meaning the women still need to get a practice run in.

Weather problems are nothing new to Alpine events at the Olympics -- or skiing in general -- which is why off-days are built into the program to accommodate rescheduling.

At the 2006 Turin Games, the women's combined was split over two days and the women's super-G was postponed by 24 hours. The men's super-G in Sestriere was delayed for hours due to heavy snowfall. Back at the 1984 Sarajevo Games, the men's and women's downhill races were postponed until after the giant slalom events, and some events were postponed at the 1998 Nagano Games, too.