- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia (AP) - It took some major course work to turn the last big jump on the women’s Olympic downhill from terrifying to rather tame.

A one-hour delay, too. And three skiers sailing high into the air, with one racer even hurting both knees when she landed.

Quite a start on the new course.

Anna Fenninger of Austria had the fastest time in a training run that had to be halted early on so workers could alter a harrowing jump. Fenninger finished the tricky course in 1 minute, 41.73 seconds to put herself 0.21 seconds ahead of Fraenzi Aufdenblatten of Switzerland.

American skier Julia Mancuso was third, 0.38 seconds behind. Defending champion Lindsey Vonn is sitting out the Olympics after undergoing recent knee surgery.

Some of the skiers complained about the quality of forerunners that were used, believing that faster, more experienced course testers were needed to avoid what took place, with the opening three racers getting too much air on the jump down the home stretch.

That led to a lengthy delay to fix the course - something that does occasionally happen on the World Cup circuit. The three racers were given the option of running the course again, with only Laurenne Ross of the United States doing so.

Daniela Merighetti of Italy skipped the re-run after hurting both knees when she landed hard on the ground after the jump. She had her left knee examined later in the day and her coach, Raimund Plancker, said at the team captains’ meeting that she “has nothing broken so she is OK.”

Merighetti’s teammate, Verena Stuffer, also elected not to race again.

“I’m upset they didn’t have more expert forerunners,” Merighetti said after her run. “They would’ve known not to send us down.”

That sentiment was shared by Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein as well after a run in which she finished fourth.

“The problem is we don’t have really good test runners and forerunners,” said Weirather, who finished 0.53 seconds behind Fenninger. “We should have two very good forerunners, just retired, paying them for one or two years, doing just that. Then we would have a responsible test run and then it would be much safer.”

Women’s race director Atle Skaardal grasped where the athletes’ gripes were coming from and said: “We, of course, would always like to have better quality forerunners. But we can’t blame them.”

The International Ski Federation had workers adjusting the course for quite some time during the training run and then manicured it even more after the race.

“I think it’s perfect or almost perfect now,” Skaardal said. “We are quite confident now it is OK, but to be safe we have also adjusted the course setting. That will hopefully take down the speed in that section.”

Story Continues →