Mother Nature monkeys with the Games

Sure it’s cold and windy, but the Games must go on, say Canada Winter Games sport officials. This week, temperatures are forecast to hover…

Sure it’s cold and windy, but the Games must go on, say Canada Winter Games sport officials.

This week, temperatures are forecast to hover around minus 35 degrees Celsius with winds gusting at 15 kilometres per hour.

This has forced schedule changes in all the outdoor events.

On Saturday, the men’s 3,000-metre and women’s 1,000-metre long-track speed skating races, held at the outside oval near FH Collins, were postponed due to extreme cold.

“There’s always the factor that you can get frostbite,” said speed skating’s sport information officer Peggy Pool.

“These kids cannot cover up 100 per cent, and I’m talking about the face because they have to be able to see.

“When the wind chill starts picking up there is always a danger because they do skate in spandex.

“They do have a lot of protection underneath — they’re wearing the thermal underwear — but it’s still a concern,” she added.

To combat the cold, some of the athletes will skate with cycling shorts over their spandex for extra protection.

And the farther you skate, the bigger the problem.

For a 3,000-metre race, a skater can be out in the wind as long as five minutes.

“Ask somebody to stand out there in spandex for that amount of time who is not a skater and see how they like it,” said Pool.

Over at the Grey Mountain Biathlon Range officials are shifting their event times so the athletes are competing during the warmest part of the day.

Rather than starting the races at 10 a.m. they are starting at 1 p.m. and wrapping up around 3 p.m.

“Today is our first competition day and, yes, weather has been a problem leading up to this,” said Joanne Thomson, biathlon sport information officer.

“Some of the main things are, basically, just the cold air and breathing the cold air because these athletes are doing a very high cardiovascular activity and it means that the cold air is getting right into their lungs.

“Some of them are still young and still developing, so if you do that too often it could be detrimental to their bodies and their lungs in the long term.

“The other major thing is cold hands and feet and exposure to the wind, frostbite and that sort of thing.

“It’s a sport where we’re using the rifles and we have to wear gloves, it just means they’re exposed to colder temperature for their hands.”

If the temperature stays below minus 25 degrees Celsius, sports may be facing cancellations, said Thomson.

So far, none of the freestyle skiing events have been cancelled, although Mt. Sima’s chairlift is shut down due to the cold.

They have been starting the races an hour later each morning according to Vince Gauthier, sport information officer for freestyle skiing.

The freestyle venue is accessible by T-Bar, and they have been housing the skiers in heated tents and trailers before their races. Even so, the courses have been inspected for icy conditions every morning.

“We’ve delayed all training and everything by an hour because it’s colder first thing in the morning before the sun comes up, but it does warm up a bit after the sun comes up so we’ve just been able to run and start things an hour later,” said Gauthier.

On Monday morning, it was minus 27 degrees Celsius with a wind chill of minus 35 degrees at the top of Mt. Sima.