Plenty of surprises in the first parallel event of these Olympics, including a heartwarming medal for Russia, but two favorites dueled in a thrilling final.
Event: Women’s parallel giant slalom
Medalists: Patrizia Kummer (Switzerland), Tomoka Takeuchi (Japan), Alena Zavarzina (Russia)
SportsMyriad projections: Isabella Laböck (Germany), Tomoka Takeuchi (Japan), Marion Kreiner (Austria)
How U.S. fared: No entries
What happened: World champion Isabella Laböck and 2010 bronze medalist Marion Kreiner failed to qualify for the elimination rounds, in which 16 riders face off head to head. Kreiner, also the 2009 world champion and 2013 World Cup champion, had finished in the top 10 in 12 of her last 13 World Cup PGS events.
Japanese favorite Tomoka Takeuchi posted the best qualifying time, followed by World Cup leader Patrizia Kummer (Switzerland).
But other favorties kept losing out in the round of 16. Russia’s Ekaterina Ilyukhina, the defending silver medalist, had a rough first run and so nearly made it up in the second, finishing 0.03 seconds behind Canada’s Caroline Calve. The Netherland’s Nicolien Sauerbreij, the defending champion, led after the first run but came across the line 0.05 seconds behind Austria’s Ina Meschik.
Three Canadians — Calve, Marianne Leeson and Ariane (not Avril) Lavigne — advanced. As luck would have it, they didn’t have to face each other in the quarterfinals. But Calve had to face Takeuchi and hit trouble early in the second run. Austria’s Ina Meschik rallied in the second run to take out Leeson. Lavigne had a slight lead against Russia’s Alena Zavarzina but couldn’t hold it, and the last Canadian hope drifted off course on a late turn.
Zavarzina had a great husband-and-wife story going with Vic Wild, who had advanced to the men’s semifinal. But she was slightly behind Kummer after the first leg and crashed in the second.
Meanwhile, Takeuchi was cruising. She built a 1.01-second lead over Meschik in the semifinal first run, and Meschik crashed trying to make up the difference.
Zavarzina came back to win the small final. With Wild in the big final in the men’s side, that guaranteed two medals in her household.
Takeuchi had a 0.30-second lead after the first run. The World Cup leader Kummer started to catch up and pulled ahead. Takeuchi fell with four gates to go, and Kummer took gold.