After hard-fought battles between 16 nations underneath the lights of the World Championship stadium in Are, Sweden, on Tuesday night, the alpine powerhouse nations of Switzerland and Austria were set to duke it out for the team event gold medal.
With warm temperatures on Tuesday sitting in stark contrast to the frigid conditions of early in the Championships, course workers were busy preparing the parallel venue with water and salt up until the final moments before the first rounds got underway. The fast-deteriorating track made for some interesting heats with DNFs and straddles more common than normally seen on the World Cup. The top alpine nations of Austria, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany all found themselves contending for medals in the semifinals as the competition progressed.
Ultimately, Austria defeated Italy and Switzerland bested Germany in the two semifinal rounds, setting the stage for a titanic battle between two of the most storied alpine programs in the world for gold while Italy and Germany would race to decide bronze in the small final.
The gold-medal round was neck-and-neck with the Austrians holding a 2-1 advantage over the Swiss heading into the final matchup between Austria’s Marco Schwarz and Switzerland’s Ramon Zenhaeusern. Both Schwarz and Zenhaeusern are known as two of the fastest parallel racers in the world — both have won individual parallel events in the past — and were sure to bring the intensity for their respective countries. Zenhaeusern relied on his six-foot-seven-inch frame to power through the ruts and defeat Schwarz, tying the bracket at 2-2 and giving the Swiss the gold by virtue of Zenhaeusern setting the fastest men’s time of the heat and his teammate, Wendy Holdener, setting the fastest women’s time. The Swiss are also the reigning Olympic champions in the team event, also defeating Austria in the finals at PyeongChang 2018.
“Ramon skied so brilliantly, we did not have to tremble at all,” Holdener told Swiss television after the event.
“Today I left everything out there,” Zenhaeusern added. “That it has been enough for gold is a great thing, but above all, it is teamwork. This is also a reward for the coaches who do their jobs every day.”
In the small final, the Italian team of Lara Della Mea, Irene Curtoni, Alex Vinatzer, and Simon Maurberger narrowly defeated the German squad of Christina Geiger, Lena Duerr, Anton Tremmel, and Linus Strasser after Strasser straddled in the final matchup of the round moments before Vinatzer fell himself. The rules of the parallel event state that if both racers are either disqualified or do not finish, the racer that makes it further down the course is granted the win. Strasser did cross the finish line, however, and the Germans originally believed that they had won bronze before Strasser was ultimately disqualified and the Italians celebrated their team medal.
Unfortunately, the United States did not field a team on Tuesday night. Many of the U.S. racers that would have potentially made up the team are either injured, were not named to the World Championship team, or currently preparing for World Junior Championships, which get underway later this week in Val di Fassa, Italy. Canada was also knocked out in the opening round to finish in a tie for ninth place.
The next event scheduled in Are is the women’s giant slalom on Thursday, February 14.
9. Great Britain
9. Czech Republic
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