Bassino strikes first gold for Italy, Faivre wins men's parallel

Luke PHILLIPS
·4-min read

Marta Bassino claimed Italy's first gold medal of the world ski championships in Cortina d'Ampezzo on Tuesday, tying with Austrian Katharina Liensberger in the final of the women's parallel giant slalom.

In-form Bassino saw off the challenges of Slovenian Meta Hrovat, teammate Federica Brignone and France's Tessa Worley in the semi-final in a series of quickfire races based on two legs per round.

The medal contenders each skied eight runs on the Rumerlo piste in an action-packed display in the debut of the event at a world championships.

The 24-year-old Italian was pitched against Liensberger -- victor over Briton Alex Tilley, Poland's Maryna Gasienica-Daniel and American Paula Moltzan -- in the final.

The Austria gained a 0.50sec lead in the first run, but Bassino battled back to leave the times tied for a dramatic joint gold to send partisan onlookers, drastically reduced in number because of Covid-19 restrictions, into raptures.

"It was a great fight," said Bassino, winner of four of the five World Cup giant slaloms this season.

"I just tried to push every turn from the start gate to the finish, it's really amazing."

Liensberger was pleased with her shared gold, the fourth for the Austrian team in just eight events, which was awarded after a little confusion.

"I'm so happy for the gold medal, it's just brilliant," she said. "That we can be equal first with Marta, that makes me very happy.

"I was a little confused in the finish area. Just to win a gold medal is a dream for everyone, so a dream for me came true today.

"It took a lot of energy, but I knew I had it and just raced every run as fast as I could."

Liensberger warned there could be more medals coming Austria's way, Vincent Kriechmayr having already bagged the men's speed double and Marco Schwarz claiming the combined title.

"The boys have put in a strong performance, but us ladies are in shape for the coming days," she said.

France's two-time world champion Worley claimed bronze after beating Moltzan, a surprise winner over Swiss favourite Wendy Holdener in the quarter-finals, in the third-place ski-off.

- Faivre wins men's parallel -

Worley's teammate Mathieu Faivre won the men's title, seeing off Croat Filip Zubcic in the final.

Faivre's path to the final saw him dispatch Finland's Samu Torsti, Austrian Fabio Gstrein and Germany's Alex Schmid.

Switzerland's Loic Meillard followed up on his alpine combined bronze with another third-place finish after Schmid slid out on the second run of their duel.

"I really enjoyed myself today," said Faivre, who has just one victory on the World Cup circuit, a giant slalom in Val d'Isere in 2016.

"It's a discipline that is more 'fun' that's nice to do. It had difficulty finding its place in the World Cup schedule and there are still different rules, particularly in qualifying.

"This is our first World Championship parallel and I certainly am the first world champion."

Faivre added: "The day started very early this morning, at 5.50am to go to qualification. I didn't plan anything, I just pushed as hard as I can."

Hot favourites Schwarz and Slovakia's Petra Vlhova both failed to qualify for the finals.

Neither combined champion Schwarz nor Vlhova, who won silver in the women's combined on Monday, made the cut.

Switzerland's Lara Gut-Behrami, chasing a third medal at these worlds after winning super-G gold and downhill bronze, was another big-name absentee from the final after she failed to make the top 16 times.

American Mikaela Shiffrin, whose combined victory on Monday made her the most decorated US alpine skier in history, with nine medals including an American record of six golds, opted to skip the parallel GS in order to concentrate on Thursday's giant slalom proper and Saturday's slalom.

France's Alexis Pinturault and Norwegian Henrik Kristoffersen, who are among the big favourites in the men's technical events, also chose not to race in the inaugural world parallels.

lp/pb