Tim Jitloff (right) and Andrew Weibrecht compete in the FIS Alpine Skiing World Cup men's parallel giant slalom on Monday in Alta Badia, Italy. (Getty Images/AFP – Oliver Morin)
VAL GARDENA, Italy (Dec. 21, 2015) – Tim Jitloff (Reno, NV), fresh off a seventh-place finish in Sunday’s traditional giant slalom, finished ninth to led the way for the U.S. Ski Team in Monday night’s new Audi FIS Alpine World Cup parallel giant slalom. Ted Ligety (Park City, UT) and Andrew Weibrecht (Lake Placid, NY) were both knocked out in the first round, finishing 24th and 29th respectively.
The first of its kind on the World Cup, the PGS was full of surprises, with many pre-race favorites making early exits and a dark horse or two providing thrilling action in the new format.
Two very familiar faces, though not from recent GS races, were left standing in the final heat. Norwegians Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal had spent the last hour methodically picking off opponent after opponent on the modified two-jump Gran Risa slope. When the snow dust finally settled, it was Jansrud who took his first victory of the season, just edging out his compatriot in the simple, cross-the-finish-first-and-win format.
Third-place finisher Andre Myhrer of Sweden took the victory in the small final by a sizable margin over German surprise contender Dominik Schwaiger, whose best World Cup result before the night was 19th in the previous day’s GS. This result marks Myhrer’s first trip to the podium since his runner-up finish in the 2014 Adelboden slalom.
Surprisingly, many of the World Cup’s top GS skiers looked uncharacteristically sluggish on the relatively flat course, perhaps flustered by having a racer next to them or by two sizable mid-course jumps that quite literally threw almost every racer off line at one point in the night.
Ligety, Marcel Hirscher of Austria, Felix Neureuther of Germany and Henrik Kristoffersen of Norway were all knocked out in the first round. In fact, six of the top seven finishers were seeded outside of the top 15, perhaps indicating that success in traditional GS is not indicative of success in the parallel format.
The night began with the opening round of 32 competitors skiing head-to-head in a two-run format, giving each racer a chance to ski both the red and blue courses. The 1/16 round was two runs, but through the rest of the rounds to the final, it was a one run knockout with one very clear rule: Win, or go home.
The entire event took under 90 minutes to complete, providing intense, spectator-friendly action in a reasonable amount of time compared to a traditional daylong ski race.
For those curious as to how the FIS was able to make a fair race in a one run knockout format, Men’s World Cup Chief Race Director Markus Waldner provided details before the event.
“We measured everything with laser, especially the course setting and the basic course preparation,” Waldner explained. “The slope has been prepared with a GPS-equipped snowcat, so that the snow and the shape of the terrain become very similar, and even equal. The course setting is also done by GPS and we manage to get really close. The difference between both courses is less than 1–2 centimeters.”
The next parallel event on the schedule is a city event in slalom for both the men and women in Stockholm, Sweden, scheduled for Feb. 23.
Up next, the men are off to Madonna di Campiglio, Italy, Tuesday for the classic slalom, the final race before the Christmas break.
Tim Jitloff was the top American in the ninth, which represents his ninth career top-10 World Cup finish.
Kjetil Jansrud won his first World Cup event of the season, and his 11th career World Cup victory.
Aksel Lund Svindal scored his sixth World Cup podium of the season, and his first that wasn’t a victory.
With his second place finish, Svindal moved back into first place in the overall World Cup standings.
BROADCAST AND LIVE STREAMING (times EST)
Tuesday, Dec. 22 2:30 p.m. - Men's Slalom, Madonna di Campiglio - NBC Live Extra – LIVE STREAM 8:00 p.m. - Men's Slalom, Madonna di Campiglio, Universal HD