Mild temps cause problems during Nordic combined training

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia — Mild temperatures Monday played havoc with Nordic combined training on the normal hill at the Sochi Olympics, forcing most of the potential podium finishers to take the day off.

Temperatures of up to 15 Celsius (59 Fahrenheit) and sunny skies softened the snow in the landing area at the RusSki Gorki Jumping Center, so organizers canceled the first of three jumps. The second session was postponed after an official said the first competitor fell while landing.

When training resumed, only 38 of 55 possible starters made jumps in each of the two rounds.

World Cup leader and gold medal favorite Eric Frenzel of Germany, 2010 Vancouver normal hill gold medalist Jason Lamy Chappuis of France and Haavard Klemetsen of Norway, who led the jumping after the first training day Sunday, decided not to make any jumps.

Of those who did, Taihei Kato led both jumps, with his Japan teammates and brothers Akito and Yoshito Watabe also among the leaders.

As is usually the case with Nordic combined training, the cross-country portion — a 10-kilometer course which for the first time at any Olympics is adjacent to the jumping hill — was optional.

The same hill was to be used for the last scheduled women’s ski jumping training later Monday and the first women’s final on Tuesday evening.

The men’s final in the Nordic combined normal hill is set for Wednesday, when milder daytime temperatures could again affect the competition. There is another training day scheduled Tuesday.

"The snow in the outrun was too soft … (so) for the safety of the athletes we canceled the first jump," competition manager Nikolay Petrov said.

Bryan Fletcher of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, the top American coming into Sochi with six top-10 finishes in the past two months in World Cup events, agreed with Petrov.

"It was kind of hurry up and then wait, but that’s all right," said Fletcher, whose brother Taylor is also on the U.S. team. "They want the best conditions for everyone, and it makes it easier on us when the landing hill is in perfect condition."