(ATR) It remains to be seen if the team ski-snowboard cross competition will be referred to as ski-gate or snowboard-gate.
German gold medalists amid controversy in ski-snowboard cross (ATR)
Problems with electronic gates opening at the top of the Freeparken Cross course in Hafjell caused confusion and affected the competition. Germany won gold in the new mixed-gender, ski and snowboard event, while Australia left disappointed.
“When they first ran the semi we came through in second and made the final,” said Australian ski cross coach Nick Kilbey. “But due to technical faults they did a re-run and we didn’t finish in the top two.”
“They were frustrated, we were frustrated,” said the Australian skier Douglas Crawford referring to the Germans, following the controversial re-run that resulted in Australia's elimination.
In semi-final heat one, Australia finished second and mixed team #4 first, both appearing to advance to the final. Germany and mixed team #2 were third and fourth, seemingly ending their medal hopes.
German skier Cornel Renn slammed his poles in frustration in the finish, believing his team had been eliminated.
However, following semi-final heat two, it was decided that the fourth and final ski leg of the first semi would be re-run. The reason was that the start gate for the Australian skier Crawford opened earlier than the gate of the German Renn, despite Renn’s snowboarder teammate Sebastian Pietrzykowski crossing the finish line ahead of Aussie Alex Dickson down below.
“My gate should have opened first so we had to repeat the heat,” said the German skier Renn. “I started nearly 1.5 seconds after him,” he said referring to the Australian Crawford.
A disappointed Douglas Crawford after Aussie team was eliminated in re-run (ATR)
Germany won the one-lap re-run advancing to the final, while the Australians finished fourth. Now, it was Australia’s medal hopes that were thwarted. Crawford skied off devastated and the other Aussies were visibly upset.
“This stuff always happens with ski or snowboard cross – something with the gate or something with the timing,” Crawford said. “It’s just the way the sport goes.”
“We tried to protest at the top, when we found out about this,” Crawford said. “It was too far gone then, it was done and dusted.”
“I thought the guys performed well in a difficult situation,” Kilbey said of the unfortunate mishap.
With Zali Offord and Alex Dickson winning silver medals in individual cross events, many considered the Australians, along with the Americans, as the favorites.
International Ski Federation race director Peter Krogoll explained the situation.
“We had a malfunction with one of the transponders – one of the snowboarders crossed the finish line and there was no signal given to the gate and it didn’t open,” Krogoll said. “The German guy’s gate didn’t open when the boarder crossed the finish.”
“I think it was a really fair decision,” Krogoll said about the one leg re-run. “In the end, I think the Australians agreed.”
“We will work on this, so next time we will be 100-percent precise,” the German race director said.
The Youth Olympic Games are positioned as not being all about winning as there is no official medals table. Perhaps the occurrences in Hafjell were a lesson for the young Olympians and a test of the Olympic spirit.
“The team handled themselves phenomenally to come back and finish fifth overall,” Kilbey said referring to his skiers and boarders winning the small final.
“We have our gold medal and nothing else matters,“ said the German skier Celia Funkler. “This is sport and everything is O.K.”
Switzerland took home the silver medal, while the mixed team #4, featuring two Swedes, a Bulgarian and a Ukrainian, claimed bronze.
The co-favorite American skiers and boarders failed to advance from the second semi-final as individual snowboard cross gold medalist Jake Vedder was taken out by another rider near the top of the course.
Male and female skiers and boarders competed together in the new discipline for the first time ever on Tuesday – an unprecedented relay grouping four competitors – two in each sport and gender per team. The start order: female boarder, female skier, male boarder & male skier.
Similar to individual ski or snowboard cross, competitors raced side-by-side, jostling and maneuvering against one another, navigating rollers, banked curves, jumps and other tough terrain features. When a racer crosses the finish line, the starting gate up top is expected to open automatically for the next teammate.
That wasn’t necessarily the case on Tuesday at the Hafjell Freepark.
Skiers and Snowboarders Co-Exist Harmoniously
If anyone still believes that old adage that skiers and snowboarders can’t get along, think again.
Skiers and snowboarders hug in Hafjell finish area. (ATR)
Camaraderie, sportsmanship and good-natured fun were evident during the new format of cross with skiers and boarders competing together as one team.
“They never really had an issue with me, so I love snowboarders,” said U.S. skier Russel Malm.
U.S. snowboarder Jake Vedder, who won the individual snowboard cross gold one day earlier, gave high marks to the new event.
“It was a super cool experience to race with skiers,” Vedder said. “It added a twist today and I’d like to see it tried out again at another event.”
Switzerland’s Talina Gantenbein, like Vedder, won ski cross individual gold. She offered positive remarks regarding the new mixed discipline format.
“For sure, it is a good combination of ski cross and snowboarding, " Gantenbein said. “It was a lot fun, so yes I’d like to do it again.”
Team ski-snowboard cross is one of eight new disciplines being showcased at the Lillehammer 2016 Winter Youth Olympic Games.
Written by Brian Pinelli in Hafjell
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