Sweden’s Sandra Naeslund claimed gold in a controversial women’s ski-cross final that saw Switzerland’s Fanny Smith relegated from third to fourth after a lengthy video review.
World champion Naeslund, who came fifth in 2014 and fourth in 2018, finally won Olympic gold while Canada’s 2014 champion Marielle Thompson took silver.
Switzerland’s Fanny Smith, a bronze medallist in Pyeonchang and a 29-time World Cup winner, crossed the line in third.
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However, after a very lengthy video review, the 29-year-old was adjudged to have impeded German racer Daniela Maier before the final jump and was shown a yellow card, dropping her out of the medal positions.
Smith made a move before the race’s final jump that destabilised Maier, but former British Olympic skier Emily Sarsfield was unsure the incident was worthy of punishment.
“We have been shocked today in the commentary box,” she said on Eurosport.
Decisions like that are so important because that is someone’s livelihood.
"It’s someone’s life, it’s everything they’ve put in - their families, their team, their sponsors – over the past four years. It’s a tough one.”
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As the riders awaited confirmation of the results in the finishing area, shivering in the -11 cold, Eurosport commentator Ian Findlay said the video review was “about the longest I’ve seen in my 10 years of covering this sport”.
“Big drama! She is pushed down to fourth place, that is a huge shame for Smith,” he said as the decision was confirmed.
“I’m not so sure about it but that is ski-cross racing.”
Three of the four riders that lined up for the final – Naeslund, Smith and Thompson – were those often seen competing in finals week-in, week-out on the World Cup tour.
It is usually a case of who takes the last remaining spot, in this case it was 25-year-old Maier.
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Naeslund powered into an early lead, while Maier made a risky move on the inside line that did not come off.
At around the race’s halfway point, Thompson landed on Smith’s skis and forced her into a wide line allowing the Canadian to charge into second.
Smith then appeared to do brilliantly to hold off Maier to claim bronze, though she was of course later penalised and dropped to fourth.
Naeslund’s confidence has been through the roof this season,” said Sarsfield watching on.
“Smith had done really well to close the door on Maier early on.
“They were so close all the way down the track, it was a case of who could get the inside line. Unbelievable run.”
Watch every moment of Olympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on discovery+.
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