PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (Reuters) - Jamie Anderson said her experience enabled her to deal with challenging conditions during the Olympic snowboard slopestyle final on Monday and refuted claims made by other riders that officials ignored their pleas to cancel the event.
Strong cross-winds played havoc during the final, prompting some competitors to say the event should have been postponed.
The start of the final was delayed by over an hour because of the wind but, after qualification was canceled entirely on Sunday due to the weather, organizers decided it could go ahead.
Only five of the 25 riders who competed made it down the first run without falling in difficult conditions, which also included hard snow, and none were able to complete two error-free runs.
Anderson coped best, however, and retained her title with a score of 83.00 points at Phoenix Snow Park.
“It is key having experience and learning to just deal with what it is,” the 27-year-old American told reporters. “It isn’t always going to be perfect.
“We waited and delayed practice for almost an hour and in that hour I was outside for most of the time when everyone else was in the lodge.”
Austrian Anna Gasser, top of the FIS world rankings, said the conditions made the competition into a lottery and accused organizers of ignoring athletes calls for the final to be postponed. She fell on both runs.
“A handful of the girls were just like ‘no, it is not safe’ – and it is not like what we are doing is safe anyhow – but after we ran our practice, nobody had any complaints,” Anderson said.
“Nobody mentioned anything and we were able to ride pretty good.”
Several athletes said Anderson was the only one who wanted the final to run because she had one of the safest routines planned.
“I realised on the second jump I barely had any speed – it was one of the more wind-affected jumps – so I pulled out of the double 900 and kind of opened up and landed cab 540 and so went as fast as I could into the bottom jump,” Anderson said.
She was backed by team mate Hailey Langland, who managed one complete run on the way to a sixth-place finish.
“It shouldn’t have been cancelled. We are snowboarders and we should know how to ride through this kind of weather,” said the 17-year-old.
“The girls on top of the podium today, that is why they are there, because they rallied against it and put runs down.”
Anderson is the only woman to have won an Olympic snowboard slopestyle title as she also took gold when the event made its debut in Sochi four years ago.
Reporting by Jack Tarrant, editing by Ed Osmond