* Only five riders complete first run without falling
* Sochi champion Anderson retains title (Adds FIS statement)
By Jack Tarrant
PYEONGCHANG, South Korea, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Strong cross-winds played havoc during the women’s snowboard slopestyle final at the Olympic Games on Monday, prompting some competitors to say the event should have been postponed.
The start of the final was delayed by over an hour because of the wind but, after qualification was cancelled entirely on Sunday due to the weather, organisers decided it could go ahead.
Only five of the 25 riders who competed made it down the first run without falling in the difficult conditions, which included hard snow, and none of them completed two error-free runs.
American Jamie Anderson coped best and retained her title with a score of 83.00 points at Phoenix Snow Park.
Austrian favourite Anna Gasser was among those who failed to complete either run.
“Yes it should have been postponed,” Gasser told reporters. “We tried to speak to officials but the Olympics put us under pressure to do it today.
“They said we had to do it today but we have three weeks (to run the event).”
Gasser said Anderson was the only one who wanted the competition to go ahead because she had the “safest run” and Norway’s Silje Norendal approached the event director about postponing it.
“Before my first run I was just up there crying. It is crazy that we did it today,” she said, adding that television scheduling was behind the decision.
Norendal finished fourth while Gasser was 15th.
However, American Hailey Langland, who fell on the first run but put in a solid second effort to finish sixth, said the conditions were manageable. “It shouldn’t have been cancelled,” the 17-year-old said. “We are snowboarders and should be able to deal with it. The girls on the podium showed that and that is why they are up there.”
The International Ski Federation (FIS) said that although the conditions made the competition challenging, “the nature of outdoor sports also requires adapting to the elements”.
“The first priority for FIS is the safety of the athletes and FIS would never stage a competition if this could not be assured,” it said in a statement.
“The FIS Jury monitored the weather conditions closely throughout the day, including consulting with the coaches, and considered it was within the boundaries to stage the competition safely.”
Australian snowboarder Tess Coady took to Instagram to blame the wind for the injury she suffered in practice on Sunday.
“(I) got picked up in the wind on the bottom jump in practice and my ACL was not a big fan!” Coady said.
POCOG spokesman Sung Baik-you told reporters that windy weather would continue into Wednesday.
“The temperature in the mountains is minus 15 to minus 25 Celsius,” he said. “The wind speed is five-10 metres per second and it is making competitions very difficult.”
Reporting by Jack Tarrant; editing by Ed Osmond