Ski World Cup program aims to limit risks, costs in pandemic

GENEVA (AP) — Organizers of Alpine skiing’s World Cup revealed a season schedule Thursday that limits the risk from the coronavirus pandemic but retains races in China to test a venue for the 2022 Winter Olympics.

Two women’s races in Yanqing, northwest of Beijing, in February is the only stop outside Europe for men or women all season. Officials had previously ruled out having any races in the United States and Canada to minimize travel issues.

Still, men’s race director Markus Waldner cautioned officials “the chance is high that we cancel some events this season.”

“The general picture is not good,” Waldner told ski officials worldwide in an International Ski Federation online presentation. “It’s a very complicated equation.”

Athlete delegate Daniel Yule acknowledged some skiers “are going to be disappointed” by a testing and safety protocol that could prevent them starting races.

“But the most important thing is that races actually take place,” said Yule, a slalom standout representing Switzerland.

The season opens with the traditional giant slaloms at Soelden, Austria, brought forward one week to Oct. 17-18. It is scheduled to end March 21 at Lenzerheide, Switzerland.

Race organizers aim to limit their workload, costs and travel for athletes, coaches and broadcasters by scheduling weekend double-headers in the same discipline at a single venue.

French resort Chamonix will have men’s slaloms on both days of its Jan. 30-31 race weekend.

Women’s races at St. Moritz, Switzerland on Dec. 5-6 will have a second super-G instead of a parallel racing event. American star Mikaela Shiffrin won the St. Moritz super-G two years ago.

“For sure, this will not be the future,” women’s race director Peter Gerdol said of the unbalanced schedule. “It is just for this season.”

Gerdol said the downhill and super-G races in China were “really important” to have after the planned men’s World Cup test races in February were canceled. They were among the first international sports events affected by the spreading COVID-19 pandemic.

Several men’s and women’s races in March, including the World Cup finals meeting at Cortina d’Ampezzo in northern Italy, were also canceled. Cortina d’Ampezzo is scheduled to host the two-week world championships in February even though organizers had asked for a postponement to 2022.

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