Ten countries sent teams, three sent full squads and none sent an Olympic medal winner to the World Cup Nations Team Event (NTE) in Innsbruck, Austria on Tuesday (Feb. 25). Some of that could be blamed on a flu-like illness that sidetracked Austrians Marcel Hirscher and Michaela Kirchgasser, and some to the scheduling so quickly after the draining Olympic period.
Even with star power decidedly diminished, the World Cup skiers presented a show under the lights on a 25-second long course in Innsbruck where the populous was celebrating 50 seasons since hosting the 1964 Winter Olympics.
In the end it was all Scandinavia as Sweden edged out Norway by a team-wide 0.22 of a second margin. Although it seemed the U.S. team of Dave Chodounsky, Nolan Kasper, Resi Stiegler and Julia Ford had secured third place when Reto Schmidinger was disqualified for missing the third from last gate on the course, the Swiss still got the team win in the small final and third place overall once the time penalty was applied.
With Maria “MPH” Pietilae-Holmner and Mattias Hargin making up part of their five person team, the Swedes had been designated as the pre-race favorite entering the competition.
“It’s such a fun event, and as I live in Innsbruck part time it’s even more special. It’s so fun to compete with your teammates,” Pietilae-Holmner said after the race. “When I woke up this morning I felt so tired, but then I came up here and the adrenaline gets to you in this event. I was getting quite nervous at the start but I guess it worked well in the end. I think this is a great way to present our sport, I definitely can see it being a great event if it makes it into the (Olympics) in 2018 and I certainly wouldn’t mind adding a couple of events to the season.”
Neither Pietilae-Holmer nor Hargin disappointed but Anna Swenn-Larsson‘s defeat of Mona Loeseth was key in the final 2-2 victory tally over Norway, ensuring the 70,000 Swiss Francs prize as well as top Nations Cup points to the Swedes.
“Today was so good, last time we got kicked out in the first round and it was disappointing not to get through. Today things turned out much better for us and I think we can be happy with this second place,” Mona Loeseth said just before walking on the podium. “I love this event and the team feeling it has. It’s so different than being on the start all by yourself, like we all are in normal World Cup races. There, if you ski out you impact only yourself but here you are just one piece of a team and how you perform matters to all.”
See more photos from this race in our gallery here.