Alpine skiing worlds: Tie for parallel gold; American finishes 4th

Alpine Skiing: World Championship
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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.

ALPINE WORLDS: TV Schedule | Results

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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Kendall Gretsch wins six gold medals at Para Nordic Ski Worlds

Kendall Gretsch
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Kendall Gretsch, who won Paralympic titles at the last Summer and Winter Games, added another six gold medals at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Sweden last week.

Gretsch, 30, earned seven total medals in seven days between biathlon and cross-country skiing.

Gretsch won gold medals in three different sports across the last three Paralympics: biathlon and cross-country skiing in 2018 (two years after taking up the sports), triathlon in 2021 and biathlon in 2022.

She plans to shift her focus back to triathlon after this winter for 2024 Paris Games qualification.

Gretsch, born with spina bifida, was the 2014 USA Triathlon Female Para Triathlete of the Year. Though triathlon was added to the Paralympics for the 2016 Rio Games, her classification was not added until Tokyo.

Also at last week’s worlds, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike earned his first Paralympic or world championships gold medal in his decade-plus career, winning a 12.5km biathlon event.

Oksana Masters, who won seven medals in seven events at last year’s Paralympics to break the career U.S. Winter Paralympics medals record, missed worlds due to hand surgery.

The U.S. also picked up five medals at last week’s World Para Alpine Skiing Championships in Spain — three silvers for five-time Paralympian Laurie Stephens and two bronzes for 17-year-old Saylor O’Brien.

Stephens now has 18 career medals from world championships, plus seven at the Paralympics.

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World champion skier Kyle Smaine dies in avalanche at age 31

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Kyle Smaine, a retired world champion halfpipe skier, died in an avalanche in Japan on Sunday, according to NBC News, citing Smaine’s father. He was 31.

Smaine, a 2015 World champion in ski halfpipe, had been doing ski filming in Japan, sharing videos on his Instagram account over the past week.

The native of South Lake Tahoe, California, finished ninth in ski halfpipe at the 2016 Winter X Games in Aspen, Colorado.

In 2018, Smaine won the fifth and final U.S. Olympic qualifying series event in ski halfpipe but did not make the four-man team for PyeongChang. His last sanctioned international competition was in February 2018.

Late Sunday, two-time Olympic champion David Wise won the X Games men’s ski halfpipe and dedicated it to Smaine.

“We all did this for Kyle tonight,” Wise said on the broadcast. “It’s a little bit of an emotional day for us. We lost a friend.”