By Alan Baldwin
ROSA KHUTOR, Russia (Reuters) - Never mind climbing every mountain, or searching high and low. Alpine skiing coaches at the Sochi Winter Olympics have been warned against shinning up the trees alongside the women's downhill piste.
Climbing anything that gives a good vantage point for filming, such as forest trees or television towers, has long been a habit on the World Cup circuit for coaches keen to give their skiers every advantage through video analysis.
Local organizers appear less happy, however, to see the branches swaying under the weight of anything other than the wildlife.
Coaches were told at a team captain's meeting on Thursday that the local chief of the course was asking them to curb their climbing.
"We had an accident a couple of weeks ago where the branch has fallen down and nearly killed a man. There has been a tree fallen over the course. So for your own safety do not consider climbing the trees," the official said through an interpreter.
A Norwegian coach, enquiring whether he might still climb at his own risk if the trees in question were too far away to fall on the course, was told he had a right to do so.
U.S. women's coach Alex Hoedlmoser said it was no big problem usually and was puzzled why the women's side had been singled out.
"It looks like the chief of the course here just doesn't like to see the people up there," he told Reuters. "On the men's side, there's 20 people up in the trees and nobody's saying something there.
"On the men's side I know there's a ton of coaches in the trees and it doesn't seem to be an issue. It shouldn't be an issue on our side either."
Hoedlmoser said that at the 2006 Turin Olympics, coaches were barred outright from the trees but there was a need for them to do so at such events.
"It's coaches doing their job," he explained. "There are no coaches' towers built and we can't be in the TV towers. And we need to see the sections. You can't be inside the fence because it's too dangerous safety-wise and so we have to go outside."
(Editing by Ed Osmond)