France edges Austria for gold
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Cyprien Richard and last-minute substitute Anemone Marmottan helped France edge Austria to win the team event Wednesday at the world championships.
Both teams won two of the four parallel giant slalom races but France took the gold because it had faster times. Richard's convincing win over Philipp Schoerghofer proved crucial for the tiebreaker, while Marmottan, who replaced Taina Barioz in the final, beat Michael Kirchgasser by one-hundredth of a second for a key point.
"It's great to win the title ahead of Austria. That's the best way to win it," said Thomas Fanara, one of the French foursome. "It's amazing to be a champion with the team."
Sweden, led by Anja Paerson, beat Italy 4-0 to win the bronze medal. Paerson won all four of her races, from qualifying to the bronze-medal match.
Paerson now has 19 medals from the Olympics and world championships, one short of the record held by Kjetil Andre Aamodt of Norway. Paerson could equal the mark in Thursday's giant slalom.
"I haven't trained the giant slalom much this season but it looks good," Paerson said.
The United States had a bye into the quarterfinals but was immediately eliminated, with Bode Miller providing the only point in a 3-1 loss to Italy.
In the team event, each nation has four racers, two men and two women, who race head-to-head against their opponents in four parallel races. Each win is worth one point.
Croatia, Germany and Sweden advanced to the last eight through qualifying. Austria then beat Croatia, France defeated Germany and Sweden beat Switzerland. In the semifinals, Austria beat Italy 4-0, while France squeezed past Sweden on the tiebreaker.
Anna Fenninger put Austria ahead in the final but Richard then evened it at 1-1.
Marmottan's narrow win over Kirchgasser put France ahead and although Romed Baumann defeated Thomas Fanara in the final heat, France won the gold on faster times. The Austrians had began celebrating before realizing that they had to settle for the silver.
"[Kirchgasser] told us we got it, but then it wasn't enough," Fenninger said. "Still, we are just as happy with the silver."
The Austrian team lost its top gate specialist Benjamin Raich to a knee injury in the quarterfinals against Croatia.
The team event, which made its debut in 2005, is not part of the Olympic program, although skiing officials hope to get it into the Olympic schedule at the 2014 Sochi Games.
The competition used to be the final day of the championships after many racers had already gone home, so it has now moved between the speed races and the technical events.
Julia Mancuso, who competed for the U.S. team, said she found the format fun but isn't all that eager to have it at the Olympics.
"I am kind of in the middle. It's a lot of fun," she said. "It's good to be with the guys. And I mean, it's kind of those events where anything can happen. It's cool. We don't do it a lot, so it's kind of different. It's almost like an exhibition. Of course, winning a team event is nothing compared to winning an individual event."
Another of the Americans, Ted Ligety, saw it similarly.
"It's a cool event," he said. "It's fun to watch, it's fun to race. Our scheduling in ski racing is so tough that doing this in the middle of a championships is always hard.
"If we had it on the last day, it would make more sense," Ligety said. "It would be interesting to see it at the Olympics but, then again, it's all about the timing. This is far less important than an individual medal."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press
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