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Downhill conditions looking good

A volunteer looks up to the start of the downhill courses at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Skiing mountain resort ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Ol
A volunteer looks up to the start of the downhill courses at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Skiing mountain resort ahead of the Sochi 2014 Winter Ol

By Alan Baldwin

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Piste conditions for Sunday's showcase men's Olympic downhill are currently excellent, Alpine skiing officials said on Wednesday.

International Ski Federation (FIS) men's race director Guenther Hujara complimented the Sochi organizers at the first team captains' meeting of the Winter Games, which open on Friday.

"It's very good to have...excellent, excellent course conditions," he said after non-competing skiers made the first test run on the Rosa Khutor slope and athletes enjoyed some free skiing in the sunshine.

"People will be surprised how well prepared and how good the conditions are. We tested today with 10 forerunners and the jumps and everything worked quite well.

"We know that the speed of other athletes will be much higher than some of the forerunners could go but even then we are convinced that everything works out very well," added Hujara.

The men and women will have their first official downhill training sessions on Thursday on the slope that hosted a World Cup race in 2012.

Austrian Andreas Evers, the speed coach of the U.S. men's team that includes ageing showman Bode Miller, had no complaints about a layout designed by Switzerland's 1972 Olympic champion Bernhard Russi.

"The course is in excellent shape," he told Reuters. "Compared with two years ago, it is set a little bit different on top and preparation is a little bit nicer on top.

"I'm pretty sure the best will win this downhill," he added.

"It's a really good downhill. I like it very much, there is everything in it. It's technical, big jumps, it's long and physically really hard - one of the hardest maybe in the season. It's interesting."

Evers said all was good in the U.S. camp, with a few fitness niggles here and there but nothing major.

Norwegian Atle Skaardal, the retired racer who is now the women's race director, joined Hujara in praising the organizers.

"The hill is in more than excellent shape right now," he declared. "I think they have done just an amazing job."

(Editing by Ed Osmond)

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