When there is a decided difference between the two side-by-side courses in a head-to-head ski race, the focus shifts from the match-ups and reverts to pure speed, but only for those skiing the faster course. In the World Cup Finals Team Event, the blue track was notably faster than the red.
“It is definitely a challenge to win this event,” Switzerland’s Reto Schmidiger said. “It’s something new, you’re not alone. You’re with a team, you all have to push together to make it to the next round which is something unique.”
The U.S. team, featuring Mikaela Shiffrin, Julia Mancuso, David Chodounsky and Tim Jitloff, were cast in the role of spoiler, halting pre-race favorite Austria in the quarter final thus assuring they could do no better than third, and then taking on the home-standing Swiss, supported demonstratively by stands chock full of local fans waving their square red flags emblazoned with a white cross.
When the two courses are equal, the team with the most wins in four chances advances in the team event format. The combined times of the fastest male and fastest female on each team is the tie-breaker. With the blue track being decidedly faster, it was a foregone conclusion that the four matches would result in a dead heat. That meant the speed of the male and female assigned to the blue course ultimately decided the outcome. U.S. team leader Patrick Riml selected David Chodousnky and Mikaela Shiffrin to ski the blue. Good strategy.
“I really like this event, it’s a fun combination between giant slalom and slalom and it was great with today’s weather,” Shiffrin said after the race. “You definitely have to be ready to go and get out of the gate fast. That seems to be the key.”
Fast times were near the 26-second mark per skier so a two skier time around 52 was needed to advance. Against France in the first round, the pair scored a 52.92 total that dispatched the French. Against the Austrians the total of 52.72 was enough to handily top the Nations Cup winners.
But in the final round, the clock edged upwards to 52.98 and the Swiss, powered by Wendy Holdener and Schmidiger, charged to a 52.84 reading for the narrow victory. The U.S., seeded fifth at the start of the event, finished second and Austria settled for third.