The Americans flew the flag high in the slalom at the Winter Games yesterday when Paula Moltzan and David Chodounsky claimed the coveted gold medals in demanding conditions at Coronet Peak.
Competition for the men's title was intense, with just 8/100ths of a second separating Chodounsky, 29, and second-placed Akira Sasaki, 31, of Japan, closely followed by Adam Zampa, 22, of Slovakia.
Chodounsky, ranked 25 in slalom, had the fastest first run in 44.19 but in the second was pipped by Sasaki, who blitzed the field to finish in an unbeatable 40.15. Chodounsky clocked a combined time of 1.25.24 to Akira's 1.25.32 and Zampa's 1.25.61 in a spectacular finish between the top ranked seeds.
Chodounsky was upbeat about his victory after two recent wins in Australia: "It's proving to be a great summer, I am on a roll. The first run got quite rough but the second held up well and although I made a little mistake I am pleased with the result."
Akira, 35th in the world, was also pleased with his result: "My coach set the second course which was helpful for me. The Winter Games has been very important for me because I want to qualify for Sochi."
Zampa is ranked 37th in the world and, with slalom as his favourite discipline, would have preferred to have been higher on the podium. He was lying second after the first run but "braked a bit much in the second run" which put him into third.
American Will Brandenburg, vying for a top three placing after finishing third in the first run, straddled a gate in the second, putting him out of contention.
New Zealand representative Adam Barwood, 21, was first Kiwi in 21st place in 1.29.05, a 33-point result which will improve his world ranking.
In the women's event it was just as tight. Moltzan, 19, who was second after the first run in 43.01, had a combined result of 1.29.04 while Michelle Gisin of Switzerland, 19, who had the fastest first run in 42.74, had to be content with second place in 1.29.17. Third-placed Megan McJames, 25, of the US, was a standout performer, coming from 13th place after the first run to score the third-fastest second run time of 45.37 and take the bronze medal in 1.29.90.
Moltzan, 144 in the world and training in New Zealand as a member of the US Europa Cup tech team, was delighted. "The second run was very bumpy but I just kept going and this is a very exciting result in my career."
First New Zealander was 17-year-old Eliza Grigg who started in bib 61 and claimed 33rd place in in 1.41.93.
Meanwhile, a win yesterday morning has New Zealand back in pole position as teams jockey for three playoff spots.
Five teams remain in the hunt for the four semifinal places in the mixed doubles.
On Tuesday Japan halted the Kiwi charge with a 9-7 victory, but the home hopes got their campaign back on track yesterday with an 8-5 win over New Zealand A, who are improving with each game.
New Zealand now have 6 wins, Korea and Japan 5, China 3, Australia 2 and NZA 0.
- The Southland Times