Weather Plays Havoc With Alpine Championships


St. Anton, Austria Feb. 5, 2001 (AP by Erica Bulman)–Extreme shifts in weather conditions forced radical changes at the World Championships.

Too much snow, followed by spring-like temperatures, wreaked havoc on the championship schedule. Now, half a men’s combined event has added to the wackiness.

The championships ground to a halt Saturday morning when a 36-hour snowstorm dumped 100,000 tons of snow on the race courses. Sunday’s warm weather threatened to further damage the runs.

After moving races around _ delaying some and cramming others in where there was room _ officials decided the men’s combined slalom would start as scheduled Monday evening under floodlights. The afternoon combined downhill will be rescheduled for either Tuesday or Wednesday, depending on the weather.

The women’s proper downhill is set for Tuesday, but the day and time for the men’s downhill had yet to be determined. It could be on Tuesday or Wednesday, ahead of the women’s slalom.

The Norwegians are favored in the men’s combined and are led by two-time reigning world champion Kjetil Andre Aamodt and teammate Lasse Kjus, who won the season’s only World Cup combined event in Kitzbuehel, Austria. The two veterans have won three of the last four world championships combined titles.

Kjus beat out Aamodt in 1993. Aamodt, who won the gold in 1997, finished just ahead of Kjus in 1999. Kjus also earned a silver in 1996 and beat Aamodt for the 1994 Olympic gold medal.

But Kjus, who won a record five medals at the worlds two years ago in Vail, Colo., has been suffering from bronchitis, prompting questions about his fitness.

Austrian Michael Walchhofer could pull off an upset. The 26-year-old slalom specialist placed second in the World Cup combined in Kitzbuehel. Veteran Paul Accola of Switzerland and American Casey Puckett could also surprise.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press