Austria wins team event at World Cup
LENZERHEIDE, Switzerland – Austria demonstrated its dominance and depth Friday by winning its third straight Nations Team competition without its top skiers.Only Ted Ligety’s win in the final heat prevented the Americans from finishing last again among the seven teams of six skiers who competed at the World Cup finals. Two men and two women raced one super-G each, and four raced in the slalom heats.Placing sixth after the super-G heats, the Americans needed a strong slalom showing, but Resi Stiegler finished fifth and Bode Miller was sixth.The U.S. team entered its best men, yet the top two women were absent. Olympic giant slalom champion Julia Mancuso, who is still trying to catch two Austrians in the chase for the World Cup overall title, skipped the team event to rest for the weekend’s slalom and giant slalom. Lindsey Kildow is out for the season after injuring her knee in slalom training at the world championships.Austria – which took the lead in the opening heat and stayed there – finished with 23 points. Italy had 29, followed by France with 31. The United States finished sixth with 35 points.The U.S team got off to a bad start when Miller nearly went off course and finished last in his super-G leg. Stiegler and Stacey Cook were unable to help, finishing fifth and sixth in their speed runs. Steven Nyman had the best American performance in the morning’s super-G, finishing tied for third in his heat.Austria’s Benjamin Raich, Marlies Schild and Nicole Hosp all skipped the event to focus on this weekend’s technical races, which will determine the World Cup overall champions. The team also was without its speed stars Renate Goetschl, Hermann Maier, Michael Walchhofer and the retired Fritz Strobl.Instead, 21-year-old Andrea Fischbacher and emerging Mario Scheiber carried the Austrians to victory, each posting the fastest time in their super-G heats.Sweden – competing without quadruple world champion Anja Paerson, who skipped the team event to prepare for the season’s final technical races – was fourth with 34. Canada finished fifth, also with 34 points but fewer heat wins than Sweden.The host Swiss finished last after placing third after the morning’s super-G. Silvan Zurbriggen was slowest in his slalom heat, and Aline Bonjour and Marc Berthod failed to complete their runs.The Canadians were second after the super-G following strong performances from Francois Bourque and Erik Guay. But they were unable to match their performance in the slalom, with Emily Brydon and Michael Janyk blowing their runs.Though the team competition event is a hit with spectators, many teams don’t like it – arguing it is too complicated for fans to understand and meaningless at the World Cup finals because it offers no individual points.