Didier Defago of Switzerland disqualified after winning Val d'Isere super combined


Didier Defago of Switzerland disqualified after winning Val d’Isere super combinedDidier Defago of Switzerland was disqualified after winning the Val d’Isere super combined on Sunday when he failed to pass FIS equipment guidelines.

Defago’s ski failed FIS equipment rule number 2.1.2, dealing with the maximum thickness of anti-vibration plates:

“The maximum height (distance between the bottom of the running surface of the ski and the ski boot sole) is 55 mm,” the rule states.

When Defago’s serviceman measured the ski in the morning, it passed the test at 54.9 mm, but in the finish area after the race FIS officials found a measurement of 55.1 mm.

“He’s disappointed, it’s clear, but he’s a sportsman and he’ll accept the rules,” said Swiss cheif of competition Gian Gilli.

The DQ was made official well after the Swiss ski team and fans started celebrating, and means that the winner of the race is Michael Walchhofer of Austria.

The DQ also moves Miller into third, his fourth podium of the season, but Miller was absent for the awards ceremony, having already flown by helicopter out of Val d’Isere for the next race, in Italy.

Defago’s case is especially heartbreaking for the Swiss men’s team, which didn’t win a single World Cup race last season.

The last Swiss man to win a World Cup event was Didier Cuche at the Garmisch downhill in February 2004.

Michel Vion, the competition director for the Rossignol Group, told reporters that “of course we respect the rules, but we should give the benefit of the doubt to the athlete” when the difference is so close.

“We have made a small mistake with a big effect in the end,” said Vion. “To be precise, we are talking about a tenth of a millimeter.”

Safety rules come home to roost
The FIS rules in question evolved in the last decade as skiers discovered that mounting plates of plastic and metal between their boots and skis gave them more leverage on the ski.

But ultimately the FIS and equipment manufacturers discovered that the increased “standheight” may have contributed to a higher incidence of knee injuries.

After the rule for standheight went into effect, athletes started thickening the plastic at the soles of their boots until the FIS regulated that equipment too (establishing a “bootheight” limit of 45 mm).

The result is that no World Cup skier is allowed to ski with more than a total of 100 mm between their socks and the snow.

The dimensions are rigidly enforced, with every World Cup finisher entering a tent after the race where they remove their boots to have them tested by a FIS official.

At Kitzbuehel in 2002, American Thomas Vonn was disqualified for violating the standheight rule. He had left strips of duct tape on his equipment to adjust his alignment, and that pushed him over the 55-mm limit of ski, binding and plate thickness.

Vonn insisted that the FIS officials’ calipers don’t compress the materials in the same way as an athlete’s full body weight.

The rest of the story; the Americans
The race was the first super combi of the season — a relatively new event for the FIS World Cup.

Walchhofer’s win is the second of the weekend (he won the downhill too). Second and third place went to Rainer Schoenfelder of Austria and Bode Miller.

Ted Ligety finished 10th, and Scott Macartney, who had the fourth-best finish in the downhill, was 21st. Daron Rahlves raced only the downhill portion, and Steve Nyman raced both but crashed in the slalom.

Ligety’s slalom time was the third-fastest of the day (fourth-fastest until Defago’s name was struck from the results).

“I just wish I had a better downhill,” said Ligety, the 2004 Sprint/Ski Racing Junior of the Year. “The slalom went great. It was pretty haggard and I gave it everything I had and was all over the place…I kept it in the fall line a little bit and sparked some arcs…there were so many holes, but it was so icy that there was at least a little grip.”

Macartney raced the slalom despite having only skied that event three days in the last year, by his own estimate. He raced the slalom only because that would make his downhill run official and give him some much-needed FIS points.

“That will help a lot, so I won’t start so far back,” said Macartney, laughing and smiling in the finish. “That was the main thing I took out of today. A little result, start a little earlier. It’ll be sweet.”

Bode Miller happy
Miller was not present for the awards ceremony. By the time it was determined that he had finished third, he was on a helicopter bound for Madonna di Campiglio, where the men race slalom on Monday night.

After the race, Miller spoke positively about his skiing, and the combined event.

“I think it’s fun for the athletes too, because if they’re normally going to get 50th place they’re not going to race, but this gives them some incentive to race,” said Miller.

As for his skiing, he says his slalom skis are as good as he can ask them to be.

“When I was in the course I feel totally comfortable,” said Miller. “It changes from really grippy, to icy, to really grippy, to a couple of holes. I got caught off. I was back a couple times, forward a couple times. If I was in the course, I think I would have done fine, I don’t know if I would have won, but that was a pretty big mistake. I was going slow after that.”

Miller went out the night before the race, and he said this might have slowed him down. “I was pretty tired,” he said. “I was out a little bit last night. I wasn’t expecting this kind of conditions.”

So close for Switzerland
Gian Gilli, the cheif of competition for the Swiss team, was already celebrating before the disqualification. He reflected on the poor fortunes for the Swiss men’s team over the last year.

“Last year was a difficult year for the Swiss team, so this new motivation, new confidence, was built up from the team, and that’s the reason why they are skiing well now,” said Gilli. “It’s a good step to Torino, so they continue to go forward with more confidence. Maybe Kernen, maybe Defago, maybe Cuche. That’s good, they are quite strong.

“Last year was also a process. All this frustration, makes you maybe stronger. I think they learned a lot also, and this is also a step forward. They can handle this situation better than last year.”

A constant obsession
The senior ski technician on the U.S. Ski Team, Brian Burnett, said that he and other servicemen obsess about shaving a little bit of speed every time they tune skis.

In such an environment, it makes sense that athletes are against the equipment limits.

In an interview soon to be published in Ski Racing magazine, Burntski pointed out that World Cup races are timed to the thousandth of a second.

‘If you’re talking about a hundredth of a second, you’re talking about a thousandth’ he said. ‘You’re talking about the difference of a 409 thousandths and 501 thousandths. There’s a hundredth.’

Men’s Combined
Val d’Isere, France
Dec. 11, 2005

1. Michael Walchhofer, AUT 2:43.15
2. Rainer Schoenfelder, AUT 2:43.32
3. Bode Miller, USA 2:43.56
4. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, NOR 2:43.63
5. Benjamin Raich, AUT 2:43.76
6. Silvan Zurbriggen, SUI 2:43.77
7. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 2:43.87
8. Peter Fill, ITA 2:44.42
9. Ivica Kostelic, CRO 2:44.60
10. Ted Ligety, USA 2:4520
11. Christoph Gruber, AUT 2:45.53
12. Andrej Sporn, SLO 2:45.55
13. Hans Olsson, SWE 2:45.65
14. Mario Matt, AUT 2:45.67
15. John Kucera, CAN 2:45.92
16. Daniel Albrecht, SUI 2:46.18
17. Patrick Staudacher, ITA 2:46.20
18. Jean-Baptiste Grange, FRA 2:46.47
19. Adrien Theaux, FRA 2:47.15
20. Ondrej Bank, CZE 2:47.23
21. Scott Macartney, USA 2:
47.41
22. Werner Heel, ITA 2:47.50
23. Alex Antor, AND 2:47.70
24. Natko Zrncic-Dim, CRO 2:47.78
25. Stefan Thanei, ITA 2:47.91
26. Jean-Pierre Vidal, FRA 2:48.05
27. Matthias Lanzinger, AUT 2:48.13
28. Lucas Senoner, ITA 2:48.26
29. Guillermo Fayed, FRA 2:48.49
30. Ambrosi Hoffmann, SUI 2:48.61
other North Americans:
38. Erik Guay, CAN 3:08.37
DNS DH: Manuel Osborne-Paradis, CAN.
DNS SL: Daron Rahlves, USA; Jeff Hume, CAN.
DNF sl: Francois Bourque, CAN; Steven Nyman, USA.

THE SCOOP
By Hank McKee

Equipment
Men’s Combined, Val d’Isere, Dec. 11, 2005
Skier, skis/boots/bindings 1. Walchhofer, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic 2. Schoenfelder, Fischer/Nordica/Fischer 3. Miller, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic 4. Aamodt, Dynastar/Lange/Tyrolia 5. Raich, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic 6. Zurbriggen, Fischer/Lange/Tyrolia 7. Svindal, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic 8. Fill, Dynastar/Lange/Look 9. Kostelic, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon 10. Ligety, Volkl/Nordica/Marker

Men’s Super Combined, Val d’Isere, France, Dec. 11, 2005. … It is the ninth competition of the men’s 34 race, four combined World Cup schedule. … The first of four scheduled combineds. … The second of two events slated at Val d’Isere for the men (the women visit for two races also). … It is the first “super” combination, a hybrid featuring one run of downhill and one run of slalom.

Swiss Didier Defago won the race and was disqualified well after the completion to an equipment (plate height) infraction.

It is the eighth career win for Michael Walchhofer. … His second combined, the previous coming at Kitzbuehel in 2003. … It is his second win of the season and in the last two days. … He finished third in the DH and 11th in slalom.

It is the 18th career podium for Rainer Schoenfelder, and just the second podium not won in slalom. … Both of those non-slalom podiums have come this season, the first from 3rd place in GS at Solden Oct. 23. … He finished 14th in DH and second in slalom.

It is the 43rd career podium for Bode Miller. … His fifth podium in combined in six completed. … It is his fourth podium of the season in three disciplines. … He finished fifth in DH and 12th in slalom.

It is the fourth top 10 result for Ted Ligety. … Three of them coming this season. … It is his first career score in combined. …He was 28th in DH and third in slalom. … It is the second best career result for John Kucera. … His best also came in combined, at Wengen in 2005. … It is the third best career result for Scott Macartney. … The other two also came in combined and both at Wengen (8th 2003 & 16th 2005). … Eric Guay was the 38th and final finisher.

The winning margin was .17 of a second. … Top seven skiers are within the same second. … Top nine within two seconds. … Miller extends the lead of the World Cup overall standings 378-343 over Aksel Svindal (finished 7th). … Walchhofer moves to third at 318 with Daron Rahlves (did not start the slalom portion) fourth at 303. … As it is the first combined the results double as the standings: Walchhofer with 100, Schoenfelder 80 and Miller 60.

North Americans performed well in the downhill portion: Erik Guay won, Scott Macartney was sixth, Bode Miller 7th, Steve Nyman 10th, Francois Bourque 11th and Daron Rahlves 12th.

What is super combined?Independent American Mielke still looking for first World Cup points

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