France edges Austria for gold in GAP team event

16 February 2011 14:35

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany – Vive la France! The French team took gold in the 2011 world championship Nations Team event in Garmisch-Partenkirchen on Wednesday, but it came down to the last few hundredths of a second. The head-to-head matchups between 11 nations were intense from the first heat to the last – several coming down to the last hundredth of a second and in the end – France barely squeaked by Austria for the gold.

“It was very, very close, a lot of suspense … it was great,” said France’s Tessa Worley, who had a fierce final run against world super-combined champion Anna Fenninger and lost by 0.10 seconds, but her teammates – Cyprien Richard and Anemone Marmottan,– came through with wins in their runs and enough of a margin for the collective victory. Both Austria and France won two of the final four runs, but the gold medal was decided by the 0.05 hundredths by which France’s collective times were faster.

“I think giant parallel like this is very fun. We all enjoyed it on the team and this is how it ends … it is great,” Worley said, adding that her team’s recharged sense of patriotism was apparent when everyone – Worley, Richard, Taina Barioz, Anemone Marmottan, Gauthier de Tessieres and Thomas Fanara – loudly joined in when their French national anthem was played after the race.

“We are not good singers – we are better on skis – but it was fun to sing all together,” Richard said.

Baumann, in particular, had thought his Austrian team, which swept Italy in the semi-finals, would get the gold. It came down to the final run between he and Fanara and the Austrian won by 0.39 seconds.

“I think everyone on our team was really, really aggressive and wanted this medal so much,” Baumann said. “We did a good job. We knew this [final heat against France] is going to be close. They had nearly the same times in the races before. All in all it’s just a few hundredths of a second. First when I came to the finish and saw the green light around Austria, I thought, ‘Yeah! we did it! But 10 seconds later the light switched and we were second. But second place is OK, too.”

The Swedish team ended up with the bronze, and was dominating through several heats, so much so in the quarterfinals that Hans Olsson spun around backwards when he crossed the finish line during his heat against Switzerland. In the small final, the Swedes won every race against Italy.

“It’s so fun to ski togethter with the team, both girls and boys – it’s a little more pressure when you know you’re skiing for the team, but I think it’s fun and it’s part of this game,” said Sweden’s Maria Pietilae-Holmner, who won every race she did all day, her closest being against Worley, in which she pulled ahead by 0.03 seconds. “For me, this is like a normal race. I’m doing the same thing. It’s a little different distance, but it’s a fun and important race for me, too. Maybe the atmosphere is a little less serious, but when it’s four ski racers on the start and you’re competing against each other, we are really into the race.”

All racers agree that the team event is a serious competition. And it should be, with medals counted as they would in any other race and prize money being dealt – 50,000 Swiss Francs to the winning team, 30,000 to silver and 20,000 for bronze.

“I think it’s nice, it’s really great to share this event with all of my teammates,” said France’s Barioz. “I think for the public it’s great, they can see who wins. I was really focused this morning. I’m really proud today. I think we have a really nice team.”

Richard pointed out that several other ski disciplines have team events as a regular part of their competition schedule and he would like to see alpine skiing moving in the same direction.

“First of all, it’s not only me,” said Richard, after hearing that his final run, winning by 0.43 seconds against Austria’s Philipp Schoerghofer, is perhaps what landed his team gold. “It’s a team event, I respect this. But when we are at the start gate, we are alone. After we see the result, we see that our teammates were great too, and we won. I think the format is a good opportunity because in alping skiing we don’t have a team event in the Olympics, for example. Compared to the biathlon or athletics I think there is a place for this in alpine skiing, so I am a big fan of this event.”

Italy took fourth in the team event while Croatia, The United States, Germany and Switzerland were eliminated in the quarterfinal heat and Canada, Slovakia and The Czech Republic were pushed out early in the day.

Hear what the athletes think of the Team Event in this video.

By Shauna Farnell