Conditions criticised in 'dangerous' slopestyle final

Conditions criticised in 'dangerous' slopestyle final

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XXIII Olympic Winter Games
Venue: Pyeongchang, South Korea Dates: 9-25 February
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, Red Button, Connected TVs, BBC Sport website and mobile app. Full coverage times

The conditions for the women’s slopestyle Olympic final were described as “too dangerous” after strong winds caused havoc in Pyeongchang.

Defending champion Jamie Anderson of the United States won gold but all of the riders fell on at least one run.

Bronze medallist Enni Rukajarvi said: “It was pretty bad. I’m happy to land my run and get a good score but I’m most happy that no one got hurt bad.”

Britain’s Aimee Fuller came 17th and had a heavy crash on her second run.

The event sees riders perform tricks on a series of man-made jumps, rails and boxes with a panel of judges scoring each run.

Rukajarvi added: “The weather was bad and too dangerous, and I got a lot of wind in my run, so that was bad, too.”

When asked whether organisers made the right call to hold the final, she said: “It wasn’t. It was better in the practice, but then it got really bad, so they should have cancelled it, or moved it.”

‘Unfair competition’

Austria’s Anna Gasser started the event as one of the medal contenders, but crashed on both runs and only managed 15th.

“I don’t think it was a fair competition and I’m a little disappointed in the organisation that they pulled through with it,” she said of the final at the Phoenix Snow Park.

“From my point of view I think it was not a good show for women’s snowboarding.”

The International Olympic Committee maintained that the safety of athletes was the organisers “number one priority”.

“The competition is run by the International Ski Federation,” spokesman Mark Adams added. “They know their athletes and they know the conditions they work in.”

On Sunday, the men’s downhill and the women’s slopestyle qualification were postponed because of high winds, and on Monday the same fate befell the women’s giant slalom.

Asked if the delays might cause the Games to be extended, Adams said: “It’s a bit early to discuss that. Nagano had the downhill five minutes before the closing ceremony, but it’s a touch premature at this stage.”

‘The wind ripped me sideways’

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Fuller described the conditions in the slopestyle final as the “roughest” she had competed in, adding that it was like “riding into a wind tunnel”.

“On the second run I got my speed right but once I was in the air it felt like I had a sail boat under my board,” the 26-year-old said.

“The wind ripped me sideways and there was not a chance I was going to land.”

Fuller also said it was a “tough question” whether the event should have gone ahead.

“At the end of the day it was the Olympic final and everyone wanted to ride,” she said.

“If you were lucky with the wind there were calm windows but the majority was super inconsistent.

“I don’t think it was a a true reflection of women’s slopestyle which is a shame for our sport.”

The Briton has another chance to win a medal when she competes in the women’s big air competition, which begins next Monday.

‘Luckily nobody was badly injured’ – BBC pundits react

Japan's Asami Hirono

Jenny Jones, the British Sochi 2014 slopestyle bronze medallist, said it was an “absolute shocker” that the final was allowed to continue.

“It was a total lottery of what was going to happen,” she told BBC Sport. “I wonder what went on in those conversations and why somebody didn’t say ‘let’s postpone this’. In my mind, I would have wanted it to be postponed.

“Of course it’s not safe. It’s an extreme sport. You’re jumping off a 60-foot kicker and you’re almost sailing on your board. Luckily nobody was badly injured. I’d be asking why this whole thing carried on.

“I think Aimee Fuller will be gutted. But she is in one piece. She stayed on her feet and she almost made that last kicker, but the wind took her. There was nothing she could do. It wasn’t in her control.”

BBC Sport commentator Ed Leigh said “serious questions” should be asked about running the competition in the blustery conditions.

“It wasn’t about who was best on the day, it was about who could get the best of the conditions,” Leigh said.

“It wasn’t about anyone’s best run, it was about who could survive and it’s no surprise that two of the three medals were made up of the most experienced riders.

“The thing I’m most pleased about is no one got seriously hurt.”

‘Some may say Pyeongchang isn’t a suitable host city’ – analysis

Nick Hope, BBC Sport reporter at Phoenix Snow Park

“It’s too cold” and “it’s too windy” are the most frequent complaints made about Pyeongchang 2018 so far, but they are the Winter Olympics and this is the way of life in the mountains.

It’s unpredictable, it can be dangerous, but it’s what winter sport is built on – elite humans tackling and beating the best that nature can throw at them.

Perhaps many have forgotten that given just how mild the past few Games have been. Aside from the sport, Sochi in 2014 felt at times more like a Summer Games, such were the temperatures in Russia and you would have to go back to Lillehammer 1994 for a Games as cold as we’re experiencing in South Korea.

We’re at an Olympics and that brings greater pressure from international broadcasters who’ve invested millions in coverage of the Games and hate last-minute schedule changes.

Some may say Pyeongchang isn’t a suitable host city, and it did miss out in the bids for the two previous Games.

However, the International Olympic Committee was criticised when selecting Russia in 2014 – and also Beijing, China, for 2022 – because although they have fewer extremes in terms of climate, the environmental impact of attempting to recreate a ‘winter’ setting in warm conditions is huge.

Anderson’s controversial win

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Qualifying for the event was cancelled on Sunday due to the winds meaning all athletes progressed to the final but the start was delayed for over an hour before eventually getting under way at 02:15 GMT.

Only five of the 25 riders made it to the end of their first run without a fall and BBC commentator Tim Warwood described the event as a “lottery” while Leigh said it would be “irresponsible” to continue.

Anderson’s winning score of 83.00 came in her first run when she was the final rider to take to the course while Canada’s Laurie Blouin won silver and Enni Rukajarvi of Finland claimed bronze.

The American’s score was significantly lower than the 95.25 which won her gold in Sochi in 2014 – in fact British rider Jenny Jones’ bronze medal run in 2014 would have been enough to take gold this time.

The conditions led to a host crashes and riders pulling out of their runs when hit by severe gusts. Slovakia’s Klaudia Medlova suffered a big crash when landing on her back off one of the course’s large jumps but she was able to complete her second run.

Victory for Anderson gave the US their second gold of the Games following Red Gerard’s win in the men’s slopestyle on Sunday.

The six other medals on day three

  • Figure skating team event – won by Canada
  • German biathlete Laura Dahlmeier became the first woman to win the sprint-pursuit double
  • 10:30-11:00 & 12:00-13:40: Freestyle skiing – men’s moguls
  • 12:00-12:55: Biathlon – men’s 12.5km pursuit
  • 12:30-14:10: Speed skating – women’s 1500m
  • 12:50-14:20: Ski jumping – women’s normal hill individual

Other news lines on day three

  • Officials have confirmed that the official Winter Olympics website was taken offline after being hit by a cyber-attack.
  • International Olympic Committee president Thomas Bach plans to visit North Korea after the Winter Olympics. The invitation came from North Korea as part of an agreement between the IOC and both North and South Korea.
  • South Korean figure skater Yura Min had to overcome a wardrobe malfunction during her performance

The action on BBC TV

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06:00-14:00, BBC Red Button and online

09:15-13:00, BBC One and online

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19:00-20:00, BBC Two and online

14:00-00:00, BBC Red Button (replays) and online

Olympics Extra

20:00-21:00, BBC Four and online

Stay in touch with the latest from Pyeongchang

Published at Mon, 12 Feb 2018 12:13:35 +0000

Why Mourinho was wrong: Newcastle did not get lucky – Shearer

Match of the Day 2 analysis

Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho was totally wrong when he said Newcastle played for a draw and relied on luck to beat his side on Sunday.

The only thing Mourinho was right about in his post-match interview was that the Magpies players worked incredibly hard for their victory.

Rafa Benitez’s side thoroughly deserved their win because they defended better than Manchester United, they dominated midfield and they did what United could not do, which was score.

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Yes, United created some chances and Newcastle’s new goalkeeper Martin Dubravka had an incredible game on his debut.

But Mourinho relies on his goalkeeper David de Gea to get them a point sometimes – like at Anfield earlier this season, for example.

Mourinho would not tell you there was anything fluky about that result, and the same goes for the way the Magpies earned their win. They were everything but lucky, in fact.

From start to finish, it was a brilliant all-round team performance from Newcastle, and it would be unfair to just pick out one performance because there were so many that stood out.

In contrast, Manchester United showed why they are so far behind Premier League leaders Manchester City, as they struggled all over the pitch.

Top of the Premier League table snapshot: Man City 1st, Man Utd in 2nd, Liverpool 3rd, Tottenham 4th, Chelsea in 5th and Arsenal 6th

How Newcastle got their fans going from the start

Newcastle had slid into the bottom three before kick-off because of Huddersfield’s win over Bournemouth earlier in the day.

Swansea had also moved above the Magpies in the table with their win over Burnley on Saturday, so it became hugely important that they got something out of the game, and their attitude was exactly what was required.

As well as picking up three much-needed points and climbing from 18th to 13th in the table, the way they did it should give them a huge boost of confidence, which is something they have been lacking at home and is one of the reasons they have been struggling there.

Premier League table snapshot: Newcastle 13th, Brighton in 14th, Crystal Palace 15th, Swansea 16th, Huddersfield in 17th and Southampton 18th.

The Newcastle fans definitely helped but the way the players went after Manchester United in the first 10 minutes lifted the whole stadium and got the crowd going from the start.

Benitez played with two up front in Dwight Gayle and Ayoze Perez, which was a really attacking approach anyway, and the high-tempo start the whole team made set the tone for the rest of the game.

We used to try to do something similar at St James’ Park when I was a Newcastle player because we knew if we really took the game to the opposition early on then it created a really positive atmosphere from the start.

I understand why this Newcastle side has not been doing it at every home game, because Benitez knows the limitations of the squad he has got.

St James’ Park is also a difficult environment to play in at the moment because of what is going on behind the scenes, with so many of the fans desperate for the owner Mike Ashley to leave.

But now the players have shown what they can do and they also know what kind of response they will get.

Newcastle are going to need to produce more home performances like this one in the next few months if they are going to stay up but, with the backing of that crowd, they have got a very good chance.

Newcastle fans at St James' Park on Sunday

The fans know what Benitez is going through

I don’t think there has ever been any doubt that the Newcastle players have been giving their all for the shirt all season. The question has just been whether they have got enough ability to get out of trouble.

In the games I have seen, they have all worked extremely hard but one of the reasons they got the win on Sunday is that they also produced some quality when it mattered too.

Newcastle XI v Man Utd

As well as Dubravka in goal, Jamaal Lascelles was magnificent, and Jonjo Shelvey and Mohamed Diame bossed midfield to the extent that United’s big-hitters, Paul Pogba and Nemanja Matic, were both taken off.

Newcastle had chances for more goals – De Gea made a world-class save to deny Shelvey – and they should have had a penalty when Chris Smalling fouled Gayle.

Man Utd XI v Newcastle

And, when Manchester United came back at them, they also defended brilliantly when they had to. One of the things Benitez has spoken about in the past is a lack of experience to see games out but they managed that today.

Benitez himself deserves huge credit for that, for the way he organised and motivated his team.

It has been a tough season for Newcastle but they have got the right man in charge, there is no doubt about that.

I think he is doing a magnificent job and the vast majority of fans are with him and know what he is going through, and having to put up with.

I was not surprised the club did not spend more money in the January transfer window because of what was going on in the background with the failed takeover, and I know Benitez wanted to strengthen his squad more than he did.

But two of the three signings he did make – Kenedy and Dubrovka – have been excellent, and hopefully Islam Slimani will have the same impact in attack when he is fit.

Newcastle need goals to go with their spirit and resilience

Bottom of the Premier League table snapshot: Crystal Palace in 15th, Swansea in 16th, Huddersfield 17th, Southampton 18th, Stoke 19th and West Brom 20th

It has been obvious all season that Newcastle need more firepower and, although it worked against Manchester United, scoring one goal will not get them a win every week.

It was not enough against Burnley in their previous home game when Newcastle created lots of chances and missed a penalty, only to see their 1-0 lead pegged back in the final few minutes.

The reason they managed to hold on this time was down to their spirit and resilience, which are both positives, but they are going to need more goals to go with that too.

This was a brilliant win, but it remains incredibly tight at the bottom of the table and there is a lot more work to do.

Alan Shearer was speaking to BBC Sport’s Chris Bevan.

Published at Mon, 12 Feb 2018 10:04:43 +0000