Winter Olympics: Safety concerns halt women's downhill training

ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (REUTERS) - Safety fears forced Sochi Olympics organisers to halt the first training run for the women's downhill on Thursday, with American Laurenne Ross describing her descent as "intimidating".

A day before the opening ceremony for Russia's first Winter Games, course workers were sent out to shave snow off a jump close to the finish after only three of the 56 racers had started in dazzling sunshine.

Athlete safety has come sharply into focus in Sochi following American snowboarding star Shaun White's decision to pull out of the slopestyle event on Wednesday.

"You just get really high off the ground, the slope just drops off and you're still going straight and that's the problem because you feel like you're just not going to come down," Ross told reporters.

"When you come down you come down pretty hard. If we get any more speed over the next few days I think it would be better to have that shaved off."

After a lengthy delay, organisers decided to stop proceedings and reschedule the training run for midday when all the racers will get to go again down the 2,713m-long course.

"I felt like, 'You're welcome, I'll be your test dummy'," the 25-year-old Ross said.

"I was definitely intimidated. But I'm happy that I was the first skier to go down in the Olympics."

While the women's course was being tweaked, the first training run for the men's downhill got under way.