CORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy – 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.

Marta Bassino (ITA) and Katharina Liensberger (AUT).

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.

Mathieu Faivre (FRA).

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? 

Paula Moltzan (USA).

“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.”

River Radamus (USA).

“We can tell that the red course is faster, but you gotta ski both courses, and you’ve gotta take the positives of each course,” said Radamus, who had the best finish of the day on the men’s side in eighth overall. “The goal is to try and build up the deficit as much as you can on the red course and survive it in the blue course and I just couldn’t do it that time.”

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.

AJ Hurt, Kaite Hensien, and Luke Winters also pushed out of the start gate for the United States on Tuesday morning in the qualifier but did not qualify for the final race.

3 COMMENTS

  1. Parallel is great if it is fair. It looked like the maximum you could lose by in the first round was 0.5 seconds no matter how far behind you were. So you can win with a slower combined actual time. Look at the numbers in the FIS tree. If I actually lose the first run by say 0.80 I only get a 0.5 second penalty for the start of the second race. And if I beat you by 0.10 in the second run, I win with a slower combined time. That is a problem. If you look at the times it happened a couple of time today

  2. Parallel event is a joke…again. No wonder Mikaela skips it.

    Recently, they tried one run per pair for several rounds- which was of course a disaster.
    Then, they tried the double panel slalom gates (to sell ads)- which only the 6’7″ guy could see over…so he won.
    So how did they screw it up this time? They lowered the max deficit to .5 sec (used to be 1.5 in Pro)- just to add drama to the second run.
    To top it off, they did not allow the higher ranked skier to choose which course to start on- making it even harder for the best skier to win the race.
    The staggered starts are OK, now that the gates seem to work well. And they managed to set a course that avoided collisions- a hazard in past races.

    But this is the World Championships. Once it became obvious that the red course was >.5 seconds faster they should have raised the max. FIS might as well have a medal event in pond-skipping.

  3. Wow! First time I have ever seen an under gate in a dual!! It seems like the World Pro Tour had the dual format fully refined 40 years ago, but the FIS keeps trying to change it and keeps producing unfair racing. No where near as fair and exciting as World Pro Tour format. I far prefer the horse style start gates to drop gate……

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