Olympics: Osborne-Paradis tops training on 'easy' course

Luke PHILLIPS
Canada's Manuel Osborne-Paradis celebrates his 34th birthday on Thursday by coming first in the Men's Downhill 1st training at the Jeongseon Alpine Center during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games

Canada's Manuel Osborne-Paradis celebrated his 34th birthday by topping Thursday's first Olympic men's downhill training on a course described as "easy" and favouring the speed purists.

In temperatures of minus 10 degrees Celsius, Osborne-Paradis clocked 1min 40.45sec down the 2.9km-long Jeongseon downhill course, missing an early gate in the blinding sunshine that would have seen him disqualified in a proper race.

Racers were unanimous that technical efficiency on a grippy surface made largely of hard-packed man-made snow would be crucial for Sunday's blue-riband showdown.

"The risk isn't going to be a reward here," said Osborne-Paradis, a surprise super-G bronze medallist at last year's world championships in St Moritz.

"It's about going deeper into the turn and generating as much speed as you possibly can because it's an easy course so it's more about skiing it better than it is about taking more risk.

"Winning training runs is not in my MO but I'm super happy I took the risk, kept low and tucked through stuff."

Norwegian Aksel Lund Svindal, who won three Olympic medals (one of each colour) at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and is an eight-time world championship medallist, five of them gold, said the course was different from the last races on the World Cup circuit.

"This is turn and turn on a grippy snow, so you can't do crazy turns," said the Norwegian favoured to make his mark in South Korea along with teammates Kjetil Jansrud and slalom specialist Henrik Kristoffersen.

"On this snow, if you turn too much you lose all your speed.

"It's easy to get to the finish but it's hard to win!" he said contrasting it with Kitzbuehel, the Austrian resort widely acknowledged as the toughest course in the World Cup.

- 'Not easy to be fast' -

Svindal added: "The snow's good, the course looks good. We've not seen any crashes today, so it's easier in that sense, but it's not easy to be fast.

"It's a little bit different from what we usually do.

"I think it favours a downhiller, in the sense that you have to have those 'be gentle with the snow skills'.

"But this is the Olympics, so you always see one or two surprises."

Switzerland's reigning world downhill champion Beat Feuz said the need to ditch risk-taking over finding the right line would open the competition up.

"You can see that many athletes can go fast on this slope," he said.

"It's a good slope for me, I feel confident but it's a slope on which a lot of skiers can be good, which means it will be more open."

Reigning Olympic champion Matthias Mayer of Austria said the course, which had a starting altitude of 1,370 metres, was a little slower than expected, but a "really nice" downhill.

American Bryce Bennett called the snow perfect.

"Good skiing is really going to show here. It's easy but it's challenging because it is a little bit easy.

"I think it's going to favour the downhillers because if you overturn any of these gates on the hill you're going to go slower so I think that might be more of a challenge for some of the technical event skiers.

"But then again, the snow's so good it might not even matter!"

Austrian Marcel Hirscher, the six-time consecutive World Cup overall champion searching a first individual Olympic gold, came down well off the pace but content.

"I'm happy! Safely in the finish, safe jumps," he said.