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Athletes and fans will have to adjust to unusually cold Olympic Games

David Wharton, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Olympics

Skiers are looking forward to fast track. As Ligety said: "We actually like that really hard, man-made surface better than having a ton of natural snow. It makes for great racing conditions."

But plastic tends to stiffen in sub-zero temperatures, so racers might have to use heat packs to keep their boots pliable. They might also need to modify turning styles to generate momentum on a dry, chalky surface.

"It will be interesting to see how people deal with it," American skier Wiley Maple said.

At the Phoenix Snow Park, course workers should be able to carve a clean, even halfpipe out of the icy surface, but snowboarders will need sharp edges to keep from slipping when they land their tricks.

A similar challenge faces bobsledders, lugers and skeleton racers at the Alpensia Sliding Centre.

"When it's like this with wind blowing on the ice, it becomes like marble," said Chris Mazdzer, an American luger. "The ice gets really, really hard and we end up skidding."

But technical adjustments go only so far.

Wind can raise havoc at the ski jumping center where organizers have erected those screens in hopes of shielding the venue. Biathletes will have to make do as they exit the cross-country course to fire at targets.

"Trying to shoot precision rifle marksmanship when you can't feel your hands is fairly challenging," said Lowell Bailey of the U.S. team.

Not everyone is fretting about the weather. Finnish ski jumper Janne Ahonen said, "It is cold and windy here, but it's also cold in Finland in the wintertime and it's not a big problem for us."

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