February 10, 2018 / 5:30 AM / 6 months ago

Olympics-Figure skating-Event times set so athletes can compete at best, says IOC

GANGNEUNG, South Korea, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Early start times for figure skating at the Pyeongchang Games have sparked criticism from some athletes but the International Olympic Committee told Reuters on Saturday that times are fundamentally set so competitors can perform at their best.

After a number of skaters, including American jumping ace Nathan Chen, had uncharacteristic falls during the team competition on Friday, some of their rivals said the early start times might have been part of the problem.

Figure skating events are most often held in the afternoons or evenings, but at the Pyeongchang games a majority of the competitions start at 10 a.m. local (0300 GMT) - which is prime evening television time in North America.

The governing body said many factors had been taken into consideration in setting the times, with the final decision made by the IOC Executive Board based on proposals from the local organising committee and consultations with the international sport federations.

"The core consideration is ensuring that athletes can compete at their very best," the IOC media relations team said in a statement, responding to questions from Reuters.

"Other factors to consider include operational issues, the balance of the approximately 208 sessions on the schedule, the exposure of each sport, and the satisfaction of the different stakeholders, including the athletes."

Fan satisfaction is also key, they added.

"Within this process, we naturally ask all our broadcast partners to provide input, as they play a key role in allowing millions of fans around the world to witness and celebrate the athletes' achievements," the statement said.

Noting that morning competition is common at world championships, the IOC said the skaters are "accustomed to it".

"It is within this context that the Pyeongchang 2018 Organising Committee developed, along with the International Federations, the IOC, and other stakeholders, the schedule, which we believe allows the athletes to compete at their best, recover properly, and showcase their performances and sport to a worldwide audience." (Reporting by Elaine Lies; editing by Sudipto Ganguly)

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