17 janvier 2009

Winner of World Cup race calls Olympic cross-country course too easy

Italy's Pietro Piller Cottrer won a cross-country World Cup race Saturday on the venue that will host the 2010 Winter Olympics, then said it's a shame organizers couldn't have built a better course.

"I have to admit the previous Olympic courses were better," said Piller Cottrer, who won the 30-kilometre pursuit. "If they made this up as new, they could do something better."

The races are the first Olympic test events held at the $119.7-million Whistler Olympic Park, located about 20 kilometres southwest of Whistler. The facility will host cross-country, ski jumping and biathlon during the Olympics.

Most of the skiers have been complimentary of the Games venue. The only other criticism came from Justyna Kowalczyk of Poland, who was second in a women's sprint Friday.

She said one of the corners on the course was too tight and "very dangerous."

Piller Cottrer, a three-time Olympic medallist, also complained about the corners and said some sections of the course were too easy.

"Especially the skating course, it's so easy and too many curves," he said. "There are amazing curves, like U-curves. You have all the space you want here. It's so narrow. It's a shame.

"In Nagano (Japan), I'm talking 11 years ago, the track, the stadium, everything was really much better. I love Canada. I'm sad to say, but they can do something better."

Tim Gayda, vice-president of sport for the Vancouver Olympic Games Organizing Committee, said the course was designed with input from FIS, the international governing body for ski racing.

"We count on them (FIS) in terms of providing the feedback," he said. "Every athlete will have different perceptions of the course.

"This will be the Olympic course. The feedback we've gotten from across the board has all been very positive. We'll work with the FIS to see what we can do, but it will remain the same course for the Games."

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