After military plane incident delays race, Austrian wins giant slalom world title
By GRAHAM DUNBAR | Associated Press | Published: February 17, 2017
ST. MORITZ, Switzerland — After an incident involving a military airplane delayed the race, Marcel Hirscher won the giant slalom title Friday at the world ski championships.
The decisive second run was pushed back 30 minutes after a monoplane in a Swiss Air Force formation display team's training exercise struck the cable of a moving overhead television camera.
The camera, for filming racers through the finish line, fell into the area where skiers stop. No one was hurt.
Hirscher, who led after the first run, raced through falling snow to hold off unheralded Austria teammate Roland Leitinger by 0.25 seconds. Leif Kristian Haugen of Norway was another surprise medalist in third, trailing Hirscher by 0.71.
Neither the 25-year-old Leitinger nor the 29-year-old Haugen has ever finished on the podium of a World Cup race.
Hirscher took silver in giant slalom at the past two world championships — part of Ted Ligety's streak of winning every gold medal in the discipline since the 2010 Olympics. The American ended his season early because of injury.
It seemed fitting that Hirscher should win a race where low-flying aircraft was a distraction. Last season, the Austrian was almost struck during a World Cup slalom race by a camera-carrying drone which fell from the air and landed on the snow just behind him.
Hirscher was furious afterward, and later finished second in that December 2015 race in Madonna di Campiglio, Italy.
The International Ski Federation quickly reacted by banning the use of drones at races it organizes.
On Friday, Swiss broadcasters filmed the camera falling into the empty finish area.
"The pilot hit the cable causing it to break and the camera fell into the finish area," FIS spokeswoman Jenny Wiedeke said in a statement. "The police are going to investigate this further."
The Swiss military team, made up of Pilatus PC-7 turbo trainers, was taking part in a second day of exercises over the course. The airplanes are scheduled to perform displays on Saturday and Sunday when big crowds are expected for the women's and men's slalom races.
The pilot later landed safely at nearby Samedan, police said at a brief news conference.
The race resumed at 1:30 p.m., instead of the scheduled 1 p.m..
Chair lifts were stopped as a precaution after the incident and some racers were delayed inspecting the course. They were allowed a further 30 minutes to examine the second run gate-setting.