By Graham Dunbar and Howard Fendrich The Associated Press
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The Winter Olympics are supposed to be cold, of course. Just maybe not this cold.
Wind and ice pellets left Olympic snowboarders simply trying to stay upright in conditions that many felt were unfit for competition. The best ski jumpers on the planet dealt with swirling gusts, as did biathletes aiming to shoot straight.
All around the games, athletes and fans are dealing with conditions that have tested even the most-seasoned winter-sports veterans.
Temperatures have hovered in the single digits and at times dipped below zero, and unforgiving gusts whipping at 45 mph make it feel much colder. Organizers have shuffled schedules, and shivering spectators left events early.
The raw air sent hundreds of fans to the exits Sunday when women’s slopestyle qualifying was called off after devolving into a mess of mistakes, and Monday’s final started 75 minutes late. Of the 50 runs, 41 ended with a fall or a rider essentially giving up. The temperature dropped to 3 degrees, with high winds.
American Jamie Anderson won the gold medal by watching most of her competitors struggle before she completed a conservative run that paled in comparison with her winning performance at the X Games just two weeks ago.
“I’m not extremely proud of my run,” Anderson said of her modest score of 83, which was still seven points better than silver medalist Laurie Blouin of Canada.
Other slopestyle competitors felt the event should have been postponed, just as Alpine events such as the men’s downhill and women’s giant slalom were; each was pushed to Thursday.
“I’m not happy about it being run,” said Cheryl Maas of the Netherlands, who placed 23rd. “It’s not just me. It’s everybody landing on their ass. It was just a (bleep) show.”
At ski jumping, giant netting was set up to reduce the wind, which can blow at three times the optimal velocity for the sport. It didn’t help much; the men’s normal hill final on Saturday was delayed repeatedly and eventually finished after midnight.
“It was unbelievably cold,” said Japan’s Noriaki Kasai, competing at his record eighth Olympics. “The noise of the wind at the top of the jump was incredible. I’ve never experienced anything like that on the World Cup circuit. I said to myself, ‘Surely, they are going to cancel this.’”
Alpine skiing, meanwhile, finally was able run a competitive race when the downhill part of the men’s combined was raced Tuesday morning. However, the downhill run started lower on the mountain at Jeongseon due to wind gusts at the scheduled start house.
The afternoon slalom run that concludes the combined event also was to be shortened by about 10 gates to help balance the race as an equal test for the downhill and slalom specialists.
Temperatures are expected to climb to into the 30s on Tuesday and Wednesday, although the forecast called for more high winds.
If the winds don’t stop, there is the potential for more upheaval as officials try to come up with contingency plans to get the full 11-race Alpine program completed before the Olympics’ close on Feb. 25.
There are two dates remaining with no scheduled competition — Feb. 19 and 20 — but those are reserved for training runs in the women’s downhill. However, because the Alpine competition here is held at two venues — Jeongseon Alpine Centre for the speed races and Yongpyong Alpine Centre for the technical events — officials can decide to hold two competitions on the same day.
“That’s a piece of the puzzle that, I guess, fortunately or unfortunately is part of our world,” U.S. Alpine men’s speed coach Johno McBride said. “You’re dealing with Mother Nature.”
Information from The Washington Post was included in this story.