Gisin claims final Swiss downhill team spot

Dominique Gisin sealed the fourth and final spot in the Swiss women's downhill quartet after winning the third training run at the Sochi Olympics on Saturday.

Gisin claims final Swiss downhill team spot
Photo: Dimitat Dilkoff/AFP

Gisin clocked 1min 42.37sec down the 2.7km-long course in brilliant sunshine at Rosa Khutor to finish 0.19sec ahead of teammate Lara Gut, with Sweden's Kajsa Kling in third at 0.25sec.

Gisin and Gut will be joined in Wednesday's downhill by Fabienne Suter, who won Friday's training, and Marianne Kaufmann-Abderhalden.

Nadja Jnglin-Kamer was left in tears after crashing out to kiss goodbye to any chance she had of making the Swiss team.

"We had qualifications, and it was like a race. I went down without any questions," said Gisin. "The winner of yesterday's training got a spot, and the winner of today got a spot. It's the rules of the Olympics.

"It's crazy that you have more competition on a usual World Cup race than at the Olympics because some of the top 15 even will not race. But those are the rules and we know it.

"It's always kind of tough for the countries with a lot of good athletes. It's the same for American track and field, I think."

Gisin added: "It was a lot of pressure, but for me it was good that I could handle the pressure, that gives me a lot of confidence. I'm now looking forward to doing one easy training!"

There were four Americans in the top eight, 21-year-old Jacqueline Wiles in fourth from Laurenne Ross and Stacey Cook, with veteran Julia Mancuso in eighth at 1.38sec.

A raft of gold medal favourites sat out Saturday's training, including Austria's Anna Fenninger — winner of Thursday's run, Slovenian Tina Maze, Germany's Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Liechtenstein's Tina Weirather.

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Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers

Italy has hit out at Switzerland for failing to prevent foreign skiers from hitting the slopes. Some have gone so far as to blame Switzerland for the spread of virus mutations across Europe.

Switzerland heavily criticised for welcoming foreign skiers
The mighty Matterhorn lies on the border with Italy. Photo by AFP
Italy's government last week blocked ski resorts from reopening, the day before skiing was due to be allowed for the first time this winter season due to coronavirus restrictions.
There is also a ban on non-essential travel until February 25th.

“It's a disaster. For a week now, we have been readying the slopes for the opening and preparing the health protocol,” said Denis Trabucchi, an Italian ski instructor. 

But the ban has not stopped Italian snow enthusiasts from hitting the slopes on the Swiss side of the border, as Switzerland has kept its ski infrastructure open despite the pandemic.

Many Swiss and Italian pistes lie close to each other so it is an easy commute from one resort to another.

The mayors of Italian border towns are annoyed that local skiers are ‘emigrating’ to Swiss ski slopes, according to the Provincio di Como newspaper.

“Cross-border skiers are not as numerous as cross-border workers, of course, but ski traffic has increased,” said Massimiliano Tam, mayor of Villa di Chiavenna, a town in Lombardy.

He said that despite bans on such border hopping, many Italians rent apartments on the Swiss side of the frontier so they can ski.

Roberto Galli, the mayor of Livigno, a ski resort in the Italian Alps, is also livid at the “cross-border ski mobility”.

“Customs controls are really limited” he said, calling for more rigorous checks “especially for Italian cars with ski racks and snow on the roof”.

Italian authorities even went as far as blaming Switzerland for the spread of the pandemic across Europe. 

Walter Ricciardi, the head of the Italian government's coronavirus task force, said Switzerland's decision to keep ski slopes open throughout winter, while neighbouring countries shut down theirs, allowed the British strain of coronavirus to arrive on the continent.

READ MORE: Is Switzerland to blame for Europe’s third wave of coronavirus?

A similar situation occurred in December, when French skiers tried to sneak into Switzerland to ski.

France’s authorities quickly announced that French residents heading abroad to ski would have to self-isolate for seven days on return and that border checks would be stepped up in certain areas. 

READ MORE: EXPLAINED: What are the Covid-19 rules for skiing in Switzerland this winter?