Switzerland beats Austria in Olympic debut of team event

Pyeongchang Olympics Alpine Skiing_650428

Switzerland’s Ramon Zenhaeusern skis during the alpine team event at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) Switzerland knocked off top-seeded Austria in the gold-medal race during the Olympic debut of the Alpine team event on Saturday.

Norway edged France for bronze as the Alpine ski program came to a close at the Pyeongchang Games.

The Alpine medals table was dominated by three countries – Austria, Switzerland and Norway, each of which went home with seven. Austria had three golds, the Swiss two and Norway one. The Americans finished with three medals – two by Mikaela Shiffrin (gold and silver) and another from Lindsey Vonn (bronze).

In the final match of the afternoon, leading 2-1, Swiss ski racer Daniel Yule wrapped up the win when Austrian rival Marco Schwarz skied out along the side-by-side parallel slalom course.

Yule celebrated with teammates Denise Feierabend, Ramon Zenhaeusern and Wendy Holdener, who added to her medal tally. Holdener also earned silver in the slalom and bronze in the combined.

”For us skiers who usually are always doing an individual sport to just do this all together like this for Team Switzerland, that was just amazing,” Yule said. ”It’s just that much more fun.”

Don’t ask Holdener to rank her medal haul from South Korea. She can’t. It’s difficult as well for Zenhaeusern, the silver medalist in the men’s slalom.

”Same level,” Zenhaeusern said. ”Maybe gold even better because winning as a team, it’s great.”

The Austrians rolled into the final without the world’s top ski racer, Marcel Hirscher. He skipped the race to refocus on the World Cup circuit.

Hirscher wasn’t alone with Shiffrin and Vonn skipping the event, too. The U.S. was eliminated by Britain on a tiebreaker in the first round.

Perhaps down the road, this particular event will pick up more status and lure the bigger names to the course.

”I think people will train harder,” said Swedish skier Andre Myhrer, the Olympic gold medalist in the slalom. ”You also see the level of the skiing is much higher now than it was a couple of years back.”

This is how the newest Olympic event worked: There were 16 countries seeded for a bracket-style tournament. Each team had four racers – two men and two women – competing in 1-on-1, side-by-side parallel runs. Each race victory was worth one point. If the score ended up even, the tiebreaker was the lower combined time of each team’s fastest man and fastest woman.

That came into play in deciding the bronze, when Norway and France were tied at 2-2.

”The feeling of success multiplies when you have everyone working together for one goal,” Norwegian skier Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen said. ”We all said to each other after the semifinal, `We’re not leaving this place without a medal.’ So either you lose the gold or win the bronze. That’s how it felt today.”

More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org

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