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LA VILLA, Italy (AP) — With Norwegian standouts Kjetil Jansrud and Aksel Lund Svindal taking the top two spots, the new head-to-head event of parallel giant slalom made a positive debut on the World Cup circuit in Alta Badia on Monday night.
Taking advantage of the seemingly faster blue course, Jansrud beat Svindal by 0.22 seconds in the final run of about 20 seconds — then the teammates embraced in the finish area.
"No one knew what today would be like so we just attacked and we ended up with a 100 percent Norwegian final and with the downhill team," Svindal said. "This was very unexpected — and a lot of fun."
Andre Myhrer of Sweden beat Dominik Schwaiger of Germany for third.
Top-seeded Marcel Hirscher was eliminated in the first round by Italy's Riccardo Tonetti after the Austrian skier failed to land a jump correctly and plowed through a gate on his second run. Tonetti was the overall champion of the second-tier Europa Cup last season.
"I skied out off a mistake. That was my fault," Hirscher said. "In general I think it is spectacular. It can be a nice format."
Only the first round in the 32-man tennis-like tournament featured two runs. From the Round of 16 on it was direct elimination after only one run.
Jansrud has been consistently finishing right behind Svindal as his teammate dominates the speed events of downhill and super-G, so the win was extra special.
"Yeah, who would have thought it would be in a parallel GS?" Jansrud said. "But now that I've beaten him once, hopefully I can do it again soon."
The made-for-TV event lasted only 75 minutes and featured constant action. The race was held under artificial lights and a crowd of about 10,000 spectators showed up.
Svindal moved ahead of Hirscher atop the overall standings and now has a 57-point lead.
Hirscher maintained his lead in the giant slalom ranks.
"I think it was entertaining," Svindal said. "Maybe it was a bit too serious, though, since points were on offer. Otherwise maybe we could have done live interviews at the start and made it even more of a show."
It was the 11th victory of Jansrud's career.
There were safety concerns about skiers crashing into each other but no such incidents occurred.
"It was good that the course was fairly flat," Svindal said.
Representing the top skiers, Olympic GS champion Ted Ligety had lobbied organizers to erect a short safety net between the two courses but coaches rejected the idea, saying that would only make it more dangerous by possibly catapulting skiers into the air.
Ligety, the second seed, was eliminated in the first round by Cyprien Richard of France.
"I just had trouble getting to the ground on all the rolls," Ligety said. "It's all about getting to the ground fast. Guys like Aksel and Jansrud have been very, very good GS skiers and these are like half GS turns. It's good for them."
Ligety would have liked to see two runs used from the quarterfinals on, "or at least in the final."
"The blue course is way faster," the American said. "If you had gone back and forth it's a good format."
Needing to complete six runs to win, skiers were shuttled back up to the start after each run on off-road vehicles after making brief pit stops with their ski technicians.
The nations team event, which features the similar discipline of parallel slalom, will make its Olympic debut at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang.
After a slalom in Madonna Di Campiglio on Tuesday night, the men's circuit takes a holiday break before a downhill in Santa Caterina Valvurva on Dec. 29.
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