Flat light and the occasional flurry of snowflakes greeted female parallel giant slalom racers this Valentine’s Day morning, as they competed on the ashes of the Olympic halfpipe for the sixteen finals spots in tomorrow’s head-to-head competition. Officials were keeping the course in amazing shape, but with no pine needles or other visual aids on course to help guide racers’ lines, visibility was definitely an issue. The single qualification run format also meant that some racers who might have killed it in the finals made mistakes that cost them the entire competition.
In the close call of the morning, Karine Ruby of France, the fourth racer down the course, held onto the first-place time of 41.45 for much of the morning until Austrian Maria Kirchgasser ripped a serious run that beat out Ruby’s by all of one hundredth of a second. This miniscule time difference between the top-two placers is all the more impressive considering the third-place racer, Lidia Trettel of Italy, was nearly half a second behind Ruby’s time.
The first American placing was veteran-racer Lisa Kosglow of Idaho fame, who put in a smoking run that ranked her seventh going into the one-on-one finals. “In the qualifier, you’re competing against yourself, which is actually the way I like it,” said Kosglow. “In duel racing there’re some many things that are out of your control.” Sondra Van Ert put in the next American placing; finding herself stuck in the tragic 17th spot–just one place and nine hundredths of a second out of the finals.
“It was difficult,” said American rider Rosey Fletcher, after her heartbreaking sketch on the upper course that cost her four seconds off the first-place time and a spot in tomorrow?s finals. “Coming out of the gate I was trying to do my best. I don’t know if it was the rain turning to snow or what.” She sat next to the scoreboard to watch the rest of the race, her head buried in her arms and her face streaked with tears: a victim of the single, crapshoot-style qualification run.
“If you get bumped, you’re still an Olympian,” said the announcer today. “But you’re not a Olympic finalist.”