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Strong winds cancel women’s World Cup slalom

LAGHI CIME BIANCHE, Italy (AP) — Strong winds forced the cancellation of a women’s World Cup downhill on the Matterhorn mountain Saturday, a week after two men’s races on the same course were wiped out because of snowfalls and gusts.

The International Ski and Snowboard Federation initially delayed Saturday’s program as the ski lifts could not be operated in the early morning, before calling off the race hours later as conditions failed to improve.

FIS women’s race director Peter Gerdol called the conditions “absolutely too dangerous” for a race.

The wind had already been an issue in the days leading up to the race, as only one of three scheduled trainings could be held.

Another women’s downhill is scheduled for Sunday.

“The course is still in a good shape, the wind didn’t affect the course too much,” Gerdol said. “If the situation (Sunday morning) is better than today, hopefully, then we will have a race.”

The cancellation marked the latest setback for organisers of the much-hyped Zermatt-Cervinia downhills.

The first cross-border races in World Cup history were introduced last season as the opening of the speed season. However, both race weekends in October 2022 were cancelled due to a lack of snow, and this season’s men’s program was wiped out last week.

As a result, there has yet to be a downhill race at the Gran Becca course, which starts in Switzerland at 3,700 metres and crosses the border to finish in Italy. This weekend’s women’s races were given a lower start point, leaving out the Swiss part of the course.

The head of the local organizing committee, Franz Julen, said he agreed with the decision to cancel as it was impossible to stage a fair and safe race.

“We fully understand this decision, even though it’s very disappointing for us, very hard,” Julen said. “(On) this ambitious project we are working hard (for) years….But nature has the last word.”

The Gran Becca was designed by 2010 Olympic men’s downhill champion Didier Defago.

It’s the first women’s race to be cancelled this season, after a giant slalom in Austria and two slaloms in Finland took place as scheduled, with Mikaela Shiffrin leading the overall standings.

The American skipped this speed weekend to prepare for tech races in Killington, Vermont, next weekend.

View of the finish area as an alpine ski, women’s World Cup downhill was cancelled due to strong wind, in Cervinia-Zermatt, Italy on Saturday. PHOTO: AP