CORTINA D’AMPEZZO (AP) — Katharina Liensberger was talking to reporters in the mixed zone when she learned that her silver medal in the parallel giant slalom event had been upgraded to a tie for gold at the world championships.
The Austrian fell to the snow in celebration.
“I just cannot believe it, but it’s true,” Liensberger said. “I was a little bit confused in the finish.”
She wasn’t the only one.
Ski racing’s quick-fire parallel event has seen so many rule changes over the years that many fans hardly understand it anymore. On Tuesday, even athletes and organizers at the world championships were so confused by the regulations that it took a while to sort out the medals.
The women’s two-run final between Marta Bassino and Liensberger ended in a tie, and organizers initially declared the Italian the winner as she came from behind in the second leg.
However, that was an old rule which isn’t valid anymore. So the results were quickly changed to having two co-champions.
“Just 0.00 (on the clock), and then nobody knew what was going on,” Liensberger said.
There was no confusion over the result in the men’s final, where Mathieu Faivre won both runs against Croatian skier Filip Zubcic to earn France its first gold of the worlds.
Bronze in the women’s event went to France’s Tessa Worley, who defeated Paula Moltzan of the United States.
“My best at world champs before this was (18th), so fourth is incredible,” said Moltzan, who finished runner-up in the only World Cup parallel event this season in November.
On her way the semifinals, Moltzan beat Wendy Holdener, who had posted the fastest time in qualifying. The Swiss skier earlier defeated Moltzan’s teammate Nina O’Brien.
Why is Moltzan doing so well at parallel races?
“I like the start gates,” she said. “As athletes we’re all super-competitive so I think this is an interesting way to bring it out of everybody and I had a lot of fun. I just like it.”
Loic Meillard won bronze for Switzerland in the men’s race after beating Alexander Schmid of Germany in the small final. River Radamus reached the quarterfinals, where he lost to Zubcic.
The confusion over finishing times was not the only issue affecting the event.
Once again at a parallel race, the two courses were not equally fast, with almost all runs won by the skier on the red course on the right side. The racers switched sides between runs, so they had one go at each course, but it was an advantage to have the faster course for the second run.
And the courses were not straight, either.
“It was the most unfair and absurd race,” said Federica Brignone, who lost an all-Italian quarterfinal against Bassino.
“I’ve never seen such an unfair race. Parallel races have to be straight. You can’t have the course turning like that,” she added. “Whoever started on the blue course in the first run had already practically won. I’m really angry and I don’t know if I’ll get over it.”
Bassino acknowledged “there’s always some controversy in parallel. But at least today everyone got to run on both courses.”
Sharing the win with Liensberger, Bassino earned host nation Italy its first medal after seven events.
“Finally. We don’t have the crowd but now I have a medal so I can think (about) the GS without pressure,” said Bassino, who is a favorite in Thursday’s giant slalom after winning four World Cup races in the discipline this season.
Bassino dedicated the win to her team and injured teammate Sofia Goggia, the downhill standout who is out for the season after injuring her knee a week before the worlds.
Earlier Tuesday, Bassino only just made the cut after qualifying also ended in confusion. Official result sheets did not specify which 16 racers actually advanced to the knockout phase.
Ranked 17th, the Italian seemed out of the race until it became clear that it wasn’t the 16 fastest skiers overall who advanced, but but the top eight from each course.
That rule saved the Italian, who was eighth-fastest on the red course.
Bassino said she felt “sorry” to have eliminated her teammate Brignone in the quarterfinals.
“But that’s our sport. We have to fight one against one other,” she said.
Mikaela Shiffrin and Michelle Gisin sat out the women’s race. Alexis Pinturault and Henrik Kristoffersen did not enter the men’s competition.
Worlds continue Wednesday with another parallel competition, this time in the team format that debuted at the Olympics in 2018. Shiffrin next races in Thursday’s giant slalom.
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