Brrrrr! Frigid weather affecting Olympic performances

Temperatures expected to start dropping with a cold week coming up. In the mountain clusters of Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, temperatures have been close to zero degrees Fahrenheit, which is about minus-18 Celsius. With strong winds, it feels even colder due to the wind chill factor.

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2022 Beijing Olympics - Biathlon - Men's 20km Individual - National Biathlon Centre, Zhangjiakou, China - February 8, 2022. Quentin Fillon Maillet of France reacts after wining gold. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha     TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
2022 Beijing Olympics - Biathlon - Men's 20km Individual - National Biathlon Centre, Zhangjiakou, China - February 8, 2022. Quentin Fillon Maillet of France reacts after wining gold. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

BEIJING — It’s supposed to be cold at the Winter Olympics.

Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014 were almost balmy. PyeongChang 2018 had a more traditional chill in the air.

And then there’s the Beijing 2022, where it could possibly be (gasp!) too cold. (And we’re not talking about indoor venues and hotels, where doors and windows are kept open for ventilation as part of the Covid-19 prevention measures).

In the mountain clusters of Yanqing and Zhangjiakou, temperatures have been close to zero degrees Fahrenheit, which is about minus-18 Celsius. With strong winds, it feels even colder due to the wind chill factor.

It’s so cold that biathletes have struggled to reload their guns. And they have a hard time feeling the trigger.

U.S. Biathlon CEO Max Cobb told Yahoo that the athletes are “generally racing in Lycra with long underwear underneath. The wind blows right through that.”

Athletes on the biathlon World Cup circuit have grown accustomed to warmer temperatures the past couple of years, so they had to prepare differently for the blustery, cold conditions in China.

“We are putting on as many layers as we can, but still everything is freezing,” said Hanna Sola, a biathlete from Belarus. “You can see everyone waving their hands, jumping on the spot. It is cold for everyone.”

2022 Beijing Olympics - Biathlon - Men's Training - National Biathlon Centre, Zhangjiakou, China - February 9, 2022. An athlete during training REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji
2022 Beijing Olympics - Biathlon - Men's Training - National Biathlon Centre, Zhangjiakou, China - February 9, 2022. An athlete during training REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji

American biathlete Paul Schommer told the Washington Post, “I went to college in Minnesota and currently live in Fargo, North Dakota, and I have to say, it’s been very cold.”

Time of day has been a factor. It’s even colder in late afternoon and after the sun goes down.

The women’s 7.5km+7.5km skiathlon started at 4 p.m. During the race, temperatures in the mountains of Zhangjiakou were about 8 degrees Fahrenheit. Factor in the wind chill and it was about minus-31 degrees Celsius.

“Frida Karlsson was completely destroyed by the cold,” Swedish team boss Anderrs Bystroem said of one of his competitors. She was seen shaking after the race.

Bystroem said he was considering asking the International Ski Federation to start races earlier in the day to try to protect athletes.

2022 Beijing Olympics - Cross-Country Skiing - Women's 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon - National Cross-Country Centre, Zhangjiakou, China - February 5, 2022. Therese Johaug of Norway, Krista Parmakoski of Finland and Frida Karlsson of Sweden in action. REUTERS/Marko Djurica
2022 Beijing Olympics - Cross-Country Skiing - Women's 7.5km + 7.5km Skiathlon - National Cross-Country Centre, Zhangjiakou, China - February 5, 2022. Therese Johaug of Norway, Krista Parmakoski of Finland and Frida Karlsson of Sweden in action. REUTERS/Marko Djurica

“We have the cold limits, but I do not know if they also measure the wind effect,” he said.

According to FIS rules, competitions cannot take place when temperatures are below minus-4 degrees Fahrenheit.

“If FIS says it’s minus-17 degrees (1 F) and it’s windy,” Bystroem said, “and it’s minus-35 degrees (minus 31 F) with the windchill, what do you do then?”

While it has warmed up in the past few days, the temperature is starting to dip again. According to the Weather Channel the temperature on Wednesday night in Zhangjiakou, where the women compete at 7 p.m. in the team sprint classic final and the men at 7:30 p.m., will be minus-2 F (minus-19 C).

Even the Beijing Military Pipe Band, the group of bagpipers who play “Scotland the Brave,” has had to prepare for the frigid conditions.

Captain Zhang Ali, whose players wear kilts, said, “We try to be as close as we can to traditions. But it’s cold. We have our undies, for sure.”

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