Olympic first: Gisin, Maze tie for gold in women's downhill

The two alpine skiers shared the gold medal for the women's downhill after posting identical times. Switzerland’s Lara Gut finished a 10th of second behind the Maze and Gisin.
By Ananth Baliga  |  Feb. 12, 2014 at 9:24 AM
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SOCHI, Russia, Feb. 12 (UPI) -- Tina Maze of Slovenia and Dominique Gisin of Switzerland created Olympic history on Wednesday by being the first to share the gold in the women's downhill event at the Sochi Games.

After covering the 1.69-mile route, Switzerland's Gisin was in the lead with a time of 1 minute, 41.57 seconds. Thirteen skiers later, Slovenia’s Maze passed the line, and as both Olympians gazed at the scoreboard, a No.1 was put up next to both their names -- the difference between their times was 0.00 seconds. It was a tie.

“I just looked away,” Gisin said. “And I looked up again, and I saw 0.00.”

Never before has an Olympic alpine skiing event ended in a tie. For a tie to occur, as it did in this case, skiers would have to have identical times to the hundredth of a second. The fact that both skiers had the same times to the hundredth of a second is truly remarkable.

But were their times actually identical?

F.I.S., the international governing body of ski racing, considers timings to the hundredths of a second, but Swiss Timing, the company that oversees the official timed results for the Olympics, calculates timings to within a thousandth of a second.

“There is a more precise number, to the 10,000th. But the rule is to report to the hundredths. We follow the rule,” said Daniel Baumat, vice president of Swiss Timing.

F.I.S. stands by its decision to consider times to only a hundredth of a second.

“When you start getting into such small numbers you cannot guarantee the integrity of that number. It’s an outdoor sport in a winter climate, a piece of flesh could be the difference,” said Jenny Wiedeke, the organization’s communications manager.

According to Baumat, there are only three people who saw the actual real-time timing -- the head timer, a backup timer and a computer operator. He says that he was in the timing booth but did not see the actual timing and that even the F.I.S. was not informed of who the actual 'winner' was.

“We don’t care,” he said. “The rule is hundredths. We said, ‘OK, it’s a tie.' ”

Gisin and Maze didn't' seem to mind sharing the gold medal, with Gisin having a philosophical take on the tie.

“Sometimes you’re behind the hundredths on the scoreboard, sometimes you’re ahead of the hundredths and sometimes you’re in the middle,” Gisin said. “I’m O.K. in the middle.”

[WaPo] [NYT]

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