Skiing: Organisers are optimistic

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The Independent Online
AS BAD weather ruined another day's skiing at the world championships in Morioka yesterday, organisers were still claiming that the event will go off smoothly. Two of the four days' racing have been lost since the 12-day championships started on Wednesday.

'We still have much time,' Gian-Franco Kasper, secretary- general of the international ski federation (FIS), said. 'We have no reasons to panic.' Kasper argued that two races, one each for men and women, run every day would solve the problem. 'We will just need six days,' he said.

He also mentioned the option of extending the competition beyond the scheduled closing date, although that was unlikely. 'The rules are clear . . . we have to finish the championships within a certain period of time,' he said. 'But in an emergency, anything is possible.'

The organising committee secretary-general, Toshio Furudate, said that if the worst came to the worst they were insured against financial loss. He declined to give details, but said the popular downhill and super-giant slalom events carried the highest premiums and highest pay-outs.

A rare double bill has already saved part of the championships, with the combined downhills for both men and women being run on Friday when the sun brought a break in the bad weather. Organisers have also juggled the championship programme to stage men's combined slalom and women's giant slalom today.

After four days, only one of the 10 gold medals on offer has been awarded, with Miriam Vogt wining the women's combined on Friday. Wind, snow and fog have stopped three of the four World Cup events since Morioka became part of the premier Alpine skiing tour in 1991.

One woman who will not be taking part, however the rest of the tournament is affected, is Chantal Bournissen, of Switzerland, who was third in the downhill section of the combined and was considered one of the favourites for the women's downhill proper. She sustained an ankle injury during her rest day and will be out for at least a month.

The 1991 World Cup downhill champion has injured her Achilles tendon and may also have fractured a small bone in her ankle while playing volleyball.

A more serious casualty was Erik Schlopy, who broke his back during a downhill training run. Schlopy, who suffered a broken sternum and five fractured vertebrae, will be flown to San Francisco. Team doctors have not decided whether the 20-year-old, from Park City, Utah, will need surgery. But the fall has not caused any neurological damage, and Schlopy will probably race again.

'He's got mobility,' the team doctor said. 'He's not in a brace or anything and is able to turn over a bit in bed.'

Two other Americans - the giant-slalom specialist Jeremy Nobis and the slalom specialist Casey Puckett were also going home early because of injured knees.

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