Sunday 15 July 2018

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Winds cause havoc ahead of busy day for Irish team

Mirai Nagasu of the United States competing in the Figure Skating Team Event on day three of the Winter Olympic Games. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Mirai Nagasu of the United States competing in the Figure Skating Team Event on day three of the Winter Olympic Games. Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

High winds continued to dog the early days of the 23rd Winter Olympics as slalom skier Tess Arbez became the second Irish athlete whose opening event was, literally, blown off course.

Temperatures of minus-20 degrees and gusts of 100mph at the top of the Yongpyong Alpine venue meant Arbez's opening event - the giant slalom - was called off at the last minute.

The 20-year-old, whose grandfather was born in Carlow and raised in Blackrock, was stoic about the postponement, saying: "That is alpine skiing. Every time we have a lot of snow or it is raining or very windy they usually cancel it or move it so we are used to it.

"I don't mind because the race is now on Thursday and I am already competing in slalom on Wednesday. It's no problem."

High gusting wind has continued to cause problems in South Korea, repeatedly disrupting the alpine events.

It had already made a lottery of the men's slopestyle snowboarding final and when the women's equivalent was run as a straight two-run final yesterday it was even more dramatic and contentious.

The physically lighter women visibly struggled to control themselves in the big air that buffeted them off the top of the course's two giant final jumps and only five of the 25 finalists avoided a wipeout on the first run.

Even America's defending champion Jamie Anderson needed all her experience to nail one good run for gold and many were critical of the conditions afterwards, though the organisers insisted it was always safe to compete.

In a sport dominated by youth, teenage snowboard star Chloe Kim (17) laid down a strong marker to her US teammate and hero Kelly Clark by scoring 95.50 in the women's half-pipe qualifying.

Canada won team ice-dancing gold and the so-called 'Olympic athletes from Russia' team (those Russians cleared of doping) took silver.

Completely

Yet it was America's Mirai Nagasu who completely stole the show. She became the first woman to land the high-risk triple axel jump to help her team to bronze - a huge moment for the woman who was snubbed for a place on Team USA four years ago.

Weather permitting, today should be a very busy one for Team Ireland.

Snowboard prodigy Seamus O'Connor, who was only 16 when he finished 15th and 17th in Sochi, is concentrating on half-pipe only now and competes in qualifying where he needs to make the top 12 to qualify for the final which he just narrowly missed in 2014.

Clare skier Patrick McMillan finally makes his Olympic debut in the 'alpine combined' (a combined time from a run in downhill and slalom) in which six-time world champion Austrian Marcel Hirscher will be chasing the Olympic title that has eluded him all his career but faces the might of Norwegian pair Axel Lund Svindal and Kjetil Jansrud.

Irish cross-country skier Thomas Westgaard, who has already taken part in the tough 30km skiathlon, is back racing in the 1.4km sprint event.

Highlights RTÉ2, 7pm; live BBC1, 9.15am; highlights BBC1, 7pm

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