In a fitting nod to Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, February 14, 2023, saw the only mixed event at the 2023 World Championships in Courchevel and Méribél, France, with the Team Parallel event. Team USA won against Norway in a nail-biting Big Final after advancing through every round of the elimination-style event.
The Team Parallel is a Slalom event run — as the name implies — in a parallel race format, with a skier on the blue course and a skier on the red course with gates set the exact same. To ensure no difference in the blue and red courses, skiers from each team are split 50/50 across the courses. Sixteen mixed teams were registered for the event, and the event runs in a knock-out format from 1/8 Final to 1/4 Final to Semi-Final, ending with a Big Final for 1st and 2nd place and Small Final for 3rd and 4th place. Each heat sees four skiers battling it out, with the winner of each round scoring a point for their team. In case of a point draw (aka 2-2), the team with the best aggregate winning times. The winning team advances to the next round.
Austria beat Germany in the 2022 Olympics and was a hot contender for the World Champion title, as was Norway, who had won the 2021 World Championships. On the parallel team for Team USA were Paula Moltzan, Nina O’Brien, Tommy Ford, and River Radamus. Katie Hensien and Luke Winters were reserved in case of injury. In the first round of 16 — the 1/8 Final — the US Team faced Poland in Heat 3 and narrowly managed to advance to the next round after a 2:2 tiebreak with a narrow 0.02-second lead for the aggregate winning times.
In the 1/4 Final, the USA faced off against Italy. Nina O’Brien, River Radamus, and Paula Moltzan won their rounds while Tommy Ford lost his by the margin of 0.07 seconds, but it was a 3:1 lead for the US, meaning the team advanced to the Semi-Finals. In the Semi-Final, the US faced its neighbor from the north, the Canadian team, consisting of Valerie Grenier, Jeffrey Read, Britt Richardson, and Erik Read. Unlike the US, the Canadians had podiumed in the Team Parallel before, but Moltzan, Ford, and O’Brien won their rounds while Radamus lost by a mere 0.01 seconds to Read, but it was a 3:1, meaning the Big Final against Norway for the Americans.
First out of the gates was Nina O’Brien on the red course for the US and Kristin Lysdahl on the blue course for Norway. Nina shot out of the gates, looking strong and taking a narrow lead. An error on the mid-section allowed Lysdahl to catch up to the American. Still, Nina O’Brien managed to hold on to a slim lead, finishing 0.13 seconds ahead of the Norwegian, taking it to 1:0 for America.
Next up for the USA was River Radamus on the blue course and Alexander Steen Olsen from Norway on the red course. They both shot powerfully out of the gates. Radamus pushed hard to the second gate, making the race head-to-head all the way. Both were moving lightning fast, but ultimately River Radamus was beaten by 0.04 seconds. This tied the teams to 1:1, meaning everything was possible again.
Next was Paula Moltzan on blue versus Norway’s Thea Louise Stjernesund on red. Norway’s Stjernesund seemed in the lead on the top bit, but Moltzan managed to push around the tight gates faster and picked up speed, and Moltzan and the Norwegian tied exactly. This meant the score was 2:2 as the tie continued, and the pressure rested on the last skier from each team. The clock could not separate the skiers, and both teams laughed at this rare occurrence.
The last two skiers were Tommy Ford from Mount Bachelor on the red course and Timon Haugan on the blue course for Norway. As the beeping signal went, the Norwegian pushed out too soon, and his skis hit the starting board, which gets flipped down for the start. Haugan almost somersaulted out of the gate but managed to stay upright and spun around before regaining his balance, but this cost him valuable seconds on the top of the course. Tommy Ford expertly weaved down the Slalom course with no chance for Timon Haugan to make up for his error at the starting gate. Tommy Ford beat Timon by 1.50 seconds, bringing home the Gold for Team USA and relegating the defending World Champion Norway to Silver.
Team Canada beat the favorite Austrians in an exciting Small Final with strong skiing on both teams. Austria and Canada tied 2:2 in the Small Final. Still, the Canadians took home the Bronze due to a 0.67 winning time advantage, thanks to Valerie Grenier’s strong run and Erik Read’s exceptional finish against their Austrian competitors. It is Canada’s second World Championship podium in Team Parallel.
Next up at the 2023 World Championships will be the Men’s and Women’s Individual Parallel, with River Radamus and Nina O’Brien competing for Team USA.