Strong winds force cancellation of 2nd run of GS in Austria

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Slovakia’s Petra Vlhova speeds down the course during an alpine ski, women’s World Cup giant slalom, in Semmering, Austria, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. (AP Photo/Gabriele Facciotti)

SEMMERING, Austria (AP) — A women’s World Cup giant slalom was canceled following the opening run Monday after increasingly strong winds destroyed parts the finish area.

Wind speeds reached up to 100 kph (62 mph) and organizers ordered people to leave the finish area as the gusts started blowing away safety fencing and sponsor banners, leaving the area in a state of havoc within minutes.

“It’s a really dangerous thing, even just staying in the finish area,” said the International Ski Federation’s race director, Peter Gerdol.

The GS will be rescheduled at another venue during the season.

“But now it’s too early to decide where and when,” Gerdol said.

A floodlit slalom on the same course is scheduled for Tuesday, with the runs set to start at 3.15 p.m. (1415 GMT) and 6.30 p.m. (1730 GMT), respectively.

The weather was expected to improve overnight allowing workers to start rebuilding the set-up at the bottom of the Zauberberg course early Tuesday.

“We will need the whole morning to reset the finish area,” Gerdol said.

Organizers first lowered the start gate for Monday’s second run after gusts set in higher up on the mountain following the opening leg.

However, as the winds also became stronger further down the slope, they twice postponed the start time by 15 minutes before calling off the event because no improvement was expected.

The first run had been completed without significant impact from the wind.

Petra Vlhova posted the fastest time, two years after the GS world champion from Slovakia won her first race in the discipline on the same Zauberberg course.

Vlhova led Marta Bassino by 0.22 seconds, while Mikaela Shiffrin was 0.59 behind in fourth.

The American three-time overall champion triumphed in the previous GS, in France two weeks ago, for her first win since returning to the circuit from a 10-month break.

Shiffrin won two giant slaloms in two days on this hill in 2016 before adding a slalom victory the next day.

Shiffrin also won the last slalom held on the Zauberberg course, in 2018.

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