PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Austria’s Vincent Kriechmayr topped the times ahead of Norwegian contenders Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal in the final training session for the men’s downhill at the Pyeongchang Olympics on Saturday.
Two of the favourites, defending champion Matthias Mayer and Swiss Beat Feuz, eased up to save energy over the second part of the course in a session that had been under considerable doubt because of the weather.
In the event, the high winds that are threatening to force the postponement of Sunday’s race eased enough for the skiers to run the full course, which they were unable to do in Friday’s second session.
Kriechmayr swept down the near three kilometre course in one minute 40.76 seconds to top the leaderboard by 0.12 seconds ahead of Jansrud, the Super G champion and downhill bronze medallist in Sochi four years ago.
Svindal was 0.35 seconds back ahead of France’s early pacesetter Brice Roger, Austrian Max Franz, Italian Dominik Paris and German Thomas Dressen - the surprise winner of the World Cup downhill at Kitzbuehel last month.
“Tomorrow, there’s 10 potential winners, and then add another five guys or more who could medal,” said Svindal, a downhill silver medallist in Vancouver in 2010.
“It’s going to be tight. In the beginning, because the course is different from the usual World Cup runs, I thought there might be different names contending, but now it looks like the fastest guys will be fast.”
Mayer, who said he was feeling good and happy with his set-up, thought world champion Feuz was favorite for the gold medal - a mantle the Swiss was reluctant to accept.
“I’ve trained and prepared very well so I’m ready,” said the 30-year-old.
“The Norwegians are certainly the favourites, but the Austrians and the Germans with Thomas Dressen are also in there.”
Another skier being widely-tipped was Manuel Osborne-Paradis, but he was unable to back up strong performances on Thursday and Friday and finished off the pace in 1:42.50.
“I kind of was hoping that would be faster but there was a couple of turns I did and I thought, argh, this won’t be as fast as I’d hoped it would be,” said the Canadian.
“This does suit my gliding style of skiing and I feel confident on the course. It’s just about piecing it all together. It’s going to be a race of perfection.”
With winds in excess of 30 knots (55.6 kph) forecast for Sunday, organisers already have contingency plans in place to move the race should it be postponed.
“I’m ready for tomorrow, but I’ll be prepared for Monday, for Tuesday, whenever,” Feuz said.
“We have to be flexible because no one can control the weather.”
Editing by Greg Stutchbury