Controversy reigns as Direz stuns Shiffrin on way to maiden victory
France’s Clara Direz stunned world number one Mikaela Shiffrin on her way to her maiden World Cup victory at Sestriere on a controversial Sunday.
24-year-old Direz had never been on the podium let alone win a race ahead of Sunday’s parallel giant slalom but she gave an early sign of what she was capable of when she took out Shiffrin in the second run.
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Shiffrin was a surprise entrant in the parallel event but she put in the best run in qualifying.
However Direz edged her out and then went on to beat Tina Robnik and Marta Bassino on her way to the final.
There she faced Elisa Moerzinger of Austria - another surprise package - and she triumphed once more for her first victory, with Bassino finishing third.
Prior to Direz’s victory Tessa Worley was the holder of the last eleven wins for the French women’s team.
However there was controversy with the blue course appearing to be noticeably quicker than the red course, with Direz on the blue when she knocked out Shiffrin.
Former ski racer Kilian Albrecht, now the manager of Shiffrin, was clearly displeased calling the situation ‘ridiculous.’
“@fisalpine if you can’t figure out how to set two exact same courses at least give the faster skiers in qualies the reward to pick the course that be more than fair. This is ridiculous. @MikaelaShiffrin and @WendyHoldener the fastest from qualies clearly got s… #notfair”
Speaking to Eurosport afterwards Albrecht expressed his exasperation with the FIS.
"The FIS has been experimenting for a number of years with an event that has potential but they can't find a way to make it simple, fair and cool. It was the same with the guys in Alta Badia where clearly one run was faster too,
"You need to eliminate these factors in any sport to at least put an effort into it but they apparently do not want to do that."
Albrecht was quick to say how well Direz had skied, particularly during qualification, insisting that she did deserve her win.
He also highlighted the fact that "she was one of the few skiers to win a race on the slower course."
Direz admitted afterwards that she felt that perhaps she had been "a little bit lucky."
"I don't know if it's really fair or not." Direz said afterwards.
"I've been lucky today because I was always on the blue course for the last runs. So I've been a little bit lucky but I won't complain about that.
"So I don't know, I'm pretty happy about winning today, my first World Cup win, so I won't say something bad about that."
Shiffrin, who put down the quickest times in the first round along with Wendy Holdener when it was two runs, was frustrated after the result
“I don’t like to talk about luck playing a role — even yesterday, .01 out, I feel like that was in my control,” Shiffrin said after narrowly missing out on a victory on Saturday.
“But these two courses are not the same at all.
“This event is still new and there are so many things to work out, but it is fun and people like to watch it. It’s just a work in progress to make it the best it can be.”
Shiffrin clocked a time of 44.36 with Holdener even quicker at 44.08 but both fell in the second round when it went to one run.
NBC’s Nick Zaccardi did the maths and demonstrated just how much more the blue lane was successful than the red lane.
While commentating on the event, Eurosport's Matt Chilton referred to the blue course as "suspiciously fast."
Speaking to Eurosport.co.uk after his commentary duties Chilton added "it was obvious there was an issue there but they do two runs in the first so it cancelled it out,
"When they do one after the first round that you don’t get that opportunity to make up for the course setting."
"It’s an outdoor sport on a mountain side, there’s always going to be some natural factors that are going to make it very difficult to balance it completely even with lasers and spirit levels it’s not an exact science, the only way to get it exact it so build a ramp in a city centre,"
"It’s obviously much more difficult when it’s giant slalom compared to slalom but there were definite advantages for the blue course no doubt
"Best option is it to make it a second run but the reason they’ve stopped is that it takes too long. They can’t get them back to the top quick enough so it becomes dull
"I’m surprised they don’t do two wins in the semi and the final. One run in the final doesn’t seem right. When you get to a final you think two runs would make it more of a spectacle."