New Worries Before the Men's Combined


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St. Anton, Austria Feb. 4, 2001 (AP by Nesha Starcevic)–After the snow came the thaw, forcing organizers to shuffle the schedule of the world ski championships for the second time Sunday.

Heavy snowfall that began late Friday turned into rain Sunday morning, followed by sunny weather and mild temperatures. That created new problems for the strained organizers.

“Don’t expect miracles,” said Werner Margreiter, who is responsible for preparing the courses.

A downhill run for the men’s combined event scheduled for Monday morning was postponed, but the two slalom runs will go on as planned Monday evening under floodlights.

The combined downhill and the downhill will be staged Tuesday and Wednesday, with the order to be determined on Monday.

Either Lasse Kjus or Kjetil-Andre Aamodt have won the combined event at three of the last four championships.

Kjus won it in 1993 ahead of Aamodt, then Aamodt won the gold in 1997 and again in 1999, this time ahead of Kjus. Kjus also earned a silver in 1996 and beat Aamodt for the 1994 Olympic gold medal.

But Kjus has been suffering from bronchitis and there are questions about his fitness.

The Norwegian also won the only previous combined event this season, in Kitzbuehel, Austria, three weeks ago.

Kjus, who won five medals at the last world championships in Vail, Colo., has been suffering from bronchitis and there are questions about his fitness.

The combined winner is determined by adding the times of the two slalom runs to the downhill timer and the formula usually works in favor of slalom specialists.

The heavy snowfall forced organizers to postpone the men’s and women’s downhill races over the weekend. Organizers said the women’s race remains fixed for Tuesday, but that the day and time for the men’s downhill would be announced Monday. If it’s on Wednesday, the men’s downhill would then come before the women’s slalom in the evening.

Although the races were called off, more than 10,000 people came to party and organizers still expect about 40,000 to show up if there is a doubleheader Tuesday.

First, the organizers have to get the courses ready for races.

Safety officials had closed down the lifts because of high winds at the top of the mountains and workers had been unable to start clearing the snow until noon Sunday.

Margreiter calculated that 100,000 tons of snow had to be removed, with the help of thousands of troops and heavy equipment.

“We simply need time to prepare the pistes,” Margreiter said. “We need 24 hours in good conditions.”

Peter Schroecksnadel, president of the organizing committee, said the work on the courses could be hindered by threats of avalanches after the sudden thaw.

The forecast for the next few days is more of the same _ mild temperatures with strong southwest winds.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press