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The Taebaek Mountains are one of the coldest places in South Korea, pummeled by Siberian winds that numb exposed skin and knife through multiple layers of clothing.
That wind has thrown the Alpine skiing events at the Pyeongchang Olympics into disarray.
As gusts ripped hats off heads and shook the enormous tents housing media at venues Monday, they also forced the postponement of the women’s giant slalom at the Yongpyong Alpine Center. That meant U.S. star Mikaela Shiffrin’s first event of the Games, one of the marquee attractions, will be delayed two days.
“It’s a bummer that we’re not able to race today,” she said in a statement. “But with the training block I’ve had, I’m prepared and feeling good. … We have a great gym and space to eat and take plenty of naps, so I’ll use this time to recharge.”
Shiffrin is scheduled to compete Wednesday in the slalom, if the weather cooperates, where she’s a heavy favorite to win the gold medal.
Organizers rescheduled the giant slalom for Thursday. That’s the same day the men’s downhill will be contested. High winds led to the cancellation of the event Sunday in what would’ve been in the first of 11 Alpine competitions at the Games.
No Alpine events have been contested, however, thanks to the wind swirling at more than 25 miles per hour and wind chill in double-digits below zero.
Strong winds are expected to continue through Wednesday with temperatures warming in subsequent days.
The weather problems have extended the Phoenix Snow Park. The women’s snowboard slopestyle qualifying round was cancelled Sunday because of the wind. The decision followed Australian Tess Coady suffering a torn left anterior cruciate ligament after falling on her final jump during a training run in the difficult conditions.
The event was rescheduled for Monday, though strong winds delayed the start.
“It’s making competition very difficult,” said Sung Baik-you, spokesman for the organizers. “The utmost importance is the safety of the athletes.”