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Snow, swirling wind force cancellation of women's World Cup downhill race

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LAKE LOUISE, Alta. - Heavy snow, shifting winds and poor visibility forced cancellation of a women's World Cup downhill race Saturday.

The decision to scrub the second women's downhill of the season was made after the original start time was delayed about 90 minutes. It's the first time since 1995 weather forced cancellation of a World Cup downhill race at Lake Louise.

"We were edging to go," said racer Kelly VanderBeek of Kitchener, Ont., snow dripping off her face. "It's too bad. It would have been fun."

A super-giant slalom race is scheduled for Sunday.

A persistent snow resulted in snow cats working all night and volunteers getting on the hill at 6 a.m. attempting to keep the 3.2-kilometre Men's Olympic Downhill Run clear. At least twice the skies cleared and the snow stopped. But a few moments later the clouds would roll back in and snow would begin falling again.

At least 30 racers from the field of 62 needed to start to make the race official.

Jim Brewington, the chief of race, said the course itself was in good condition.

"What we didn't have under control was the weather," he said. "The upper part of the course, the winds were extremely gusty. At times it was OK for visibility and at other times it was quite severe."

Officials decided the conditions "were too variable and there was no guarantee that things were going to improve," said Brewington.

VanderBeek said it was the proper decision.

"Every time they decide on safety over trying to risk it, it's the right decision," she said. "You can't argue with it but it's always hard not to race."

Brewington said weather conditions could be the same Sunday.

American Lindsay Vonn, the defending World Cup overall and downhill champion, won Friday's first downhill race of the season. It was the fifth consecutive year the Park City, Utah, resident had won a downhill here and her 15th career World Cup victory.

Italy's Nadia Fanchini was second and Germany's Maria Riesch third in 1:26.79.

Three Canadians finished in the top 15. Emily Brydon of Fernie, B.C., was seventh, VanderBeek 14th and Britt Janyk of Whistler, B.C., 15th.

Max Gartner, Alpine Canada's chief athletic's officer, said it's always disappointing to lose a race in Canada.

"There are not many opportunities for athletes to compete at home," said Gartner. "After yesterday, I think our team was really ready to get another shot at this home track and improve a bit with their results.

"It hurts but that's the way it goes. We have one more shot at it tomorrow. We have to keep the spirits up and keep motivated for tomorrow."

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