By Mark Trevelyan
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) – Sub-zero temperatures on the South Korean slopes will favor U.S. skiers at this month’s Winter Olympics because they are accustomed to brutal conditions at home, men’s head coach Sasha Rearick said on Tuesday.
Two days ahead of the first downhill training run, the temperature in Pyeongchang was minus 7 degrees Celsius (19 Fahrenheit), actually somewhat milder than in recent weeks, with both athletes and spectators braced for a chilly Games.
“First of all, I see it as an awesome opportunity for us,” Rearick told reporters when asked how the weather would affect the team at the Feb. 9-25 Games.
“Most of these guys grew up skiing Lake Louise when they were kids, the east coast boys all had to ski Sugarloaf (Maine) and Lake Placid — very cold places, brutal humidity. I know my boys are tougher, so I’m just going, like, ‘I hope it’s cold’.”
Double Olympic champion Ted Ligety told a news conference: “It’s fine skiing when it’s cold, it’s just you gotta keep your boots warm I guess… You’ve got to tape your face in the speed events, I think, probably.”
Canada’s Alpine skiers also said they have no concerns about the weather.
“It’s nothing even close to out of the ordinary so it doesn’t really affect it that much,” skier Dustin Cook told a media conference.
“It definitely is colder than what we’re used to at the World Cup circuit. I mean, minus five in Europe seems to be pretty cold but I think for us as Canadians – and it sounds pretty stereotypical – but it really isn’t that crazy for us.
The Canadians were, in fact, glad to be finally getting some cold weather to test their winter gear.
“It is the Winter Olympics and a lot of the time the clothing we get has been very wintery and it has not been winter in the last couple of Olympics,” ski racer Maneul Osborne-Paradis said.
“It’s really nice that we’re wearing stuff and we’re not just sweating all day, so I’m happy that we’re clothed appropriately and it’s fine.”
American hopes in the Alpine skiing events are riding mainly on Ligety for the men, and Lindsey Vonn and Mikaela Shiffrin for the women.
Rearick said the team was taking no chances with health and hygiene in the run-up to competition after organizers moved to combat a norovirus outbreak among private security staff.
“We’re disinfecting rooms, hand sanitizer everywhere, making sure hydration’s taken care of, and as soon as someone’s sick, isolate them and quarantine them, basically,” he said.
“Here at the Games we don’t stay in the (athletes’) village, we stay in our own compound where we have our own chefs and our own food.
“One part of that is to try to keep the home feeling. We cook American food that the guys like, that’s also healthy — and then controlling the environment, where we try to minimize our exposure (to illness).”
(Reporting by Mark Trevelyan and Philip O’Connor; Editing by John O’Brien and Sudipto Ganguly)