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Skiers criticize extreme courses

THE steep, icy courses at the alpine skiing world championships have surprised many favorites, featured some spectacular crashes and attracted criticism from several skiers and officials in Val d'Isere, France.

A number of competitors love the Bellevarde and Solaise pistes, hosting the men's and women's speed events respectively and facing each other in the French Alps resort, but most feel that they are too extreme and too challenging.

Only a third of the field finished the women's super-G on the Solaise piste on Tuesday and two favorites crashed out on Wednesday in the first training run for Sunday's women's downhill.

Swede Jessica Lindell-Vikarby, winner of a super-G in Cortina d'Ampezzo last month, tore knee ligaments and will be out of action for the rest of the season.

Germany's Maria Riesch, one of the leading contenders for the overall World Cup title this season, also finished in the safety nets in training and had to be treated for bruises.

"This is by far the hardest course we are likely to see at any world championships past or present," Swede Anja Paerson said after sliding out of the super-G and losing her title.

German Ski Federation sports director Wolfgang Maier was not impressed by either course.

"It looks more like a ploughed field than like a World Cup or world championship piste. It's really extreme. Two-thirds of the women struggled," he said of the women's piste.

Commenting on the men's Bellevarde piste, which turned into an ice rink after being watered by the organizers, Maier said: "I don't know why they have to prepare it in such an extreme way. They (organizers) say we saw wonderful skiing but they need glasses. The only one I saw ski wonderfully was (Wednesday's super-G winner) Didier Cuche."

Some, like American Ted Ligety, loved the course.

"I may be biased because I like steep slopes but the super-G was exactly what the discipline was meant to be, a mixture of giant slalom and downhill, both technical and fast," he said.

All of which did not prevent him from tumbling down the piste in spectacular fashion.


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