Monday, February 9, 1998
All four Americans fall in first runYAMANOUCHI, Japan (AP) -- High hopes for the first U.S. medal of the Nagano Olympics virtually disappeared when all four American women fell during the first run of the snowboard giant slalom.
Difficult weather and course conditions -- "death cookies," one boarder called them -- turned the event into a "race of survival."
While French favorite Karine Ruby took a big lead, chances for an American medal evaporated as Rosey Fletcher, Betsy Shaw, Lisa Kosglow and Sondra Van Ert all tumbled on the Mount Yakebitai course.
Fletcher and Kosglow failed to finish and Shaw was disqualified for missing a gate. Van Ert recovered after her fall and completed the race but was in 16th position, 8.56 seconds behind Ruby.
Any chance of a medal for Von Ert would take a combination of a stunning run by her and a string of wipeouts by the 15 racers she trails.
"It's not a stellar day for us," Kosglow said. "We all had high hopes. All four of us could have been on the podium. It's a terrible showcase for the sport. The women are not this bad."
The race had been postponed Monday (Sunday night EST) for 24 hours due to heavy snow and fog. The conditions improved slightly but the race was still affected by steady snowfall and limited visibility.
"It's a race of survival," Fletcher said. "The snow is quite hard underneath. There's like really hard death cookies -- ice chunks. It's really inconsistent. They'll be powder, ice and death cookies. Its really difficult."
The Americans said they were not prepared for the fast, hard-packed snow conditions.
"They watered down the course a couple of days ago," Kosglow said. "That's the way to treat the course, but none of us have ever been on conditions like this before. Usually when the weather's like this, we race in powder.
"When I came out of the gate, I went, 'Oh, my God.' It felt like my feet weren't connected to the board."
Ruby, winner of seven of eight World Cup races this season, mastered the course in 1 minute, 9.33 seconds. That put her 1.95 seconds ahead of another Frenchwoman, Isabelle Blanc, who was clocked in 1:11.28. Lidia Trettel of Italy was third in 1:11.68
The women's GS is the second snowboard event in Olympic history. In the first race Sunday (Saturday night EDT), Canada's Ross Rebagliati won the gold medal in the men's giant slalom, while the U.S. team was shutout.
The competition moves Thursday to Kanbayashi Snowboard Park for the men's and women's halfpipe, freestyle events where riders perform jumps and tricks on a huge snow trough.