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Criticism, ridicule for ski federation after Swiss timing error changes race results again

In a nation renowned for precision clocks and Alpine skiing, Swiss timekeepers of a World Cup race got things so wrong that the results of a women's downhill had to be altered three days after it was run — with two skiers knocked off the podium as a result.

2 skiers knocked off podium 3 days after women's downhill on Saturday

Switzerland's Joana Haehlen, left, Lara Gut-Behrami, right, and Italy's Sofia Goggia, centre, celebrate podium finishes after Saturday's downhill in Crans-Montana, Switzerland. Errors in timing resulted in Haehlen getting bumped from her original second-place showing. (Jean-Christophe Bott/Associated Press)

Call it a case of bad timing, in Switzerland of all places.

In a nation renowned for precision clocks and Alpine skiing, Swiss timekeepers of a World Cup race got things so wrong that the results of a women's downhill had to be altered three days after it was run — with two skiers knocked off the podium as a result.

The fiasco stemmed from faulty finish-line timing, which had already caused organizers to amend the results list once on Saturday shortly after the race ended.

Having to change it a second time left both the International Ski Federation (FIS) and Swiss Timing — the sports industry leader tied to luxury watch brands Longines and Omega, the Olympic Games timekeeper — facing criticism and ridicule from some athletes.

"Is FIS a joke????" French skier Julien Lizeroux wrote on Twitter after seeing the revised result.

WATCH | Sofia Goggia claims gold

Olympic champion Sofia Goggia wins the first World Cup downhill of the post-Lindsey Vonn era. 1:48

The governing body accepted its share of the blame Tuesday in a statement confirming the amended result.

"FIS and Swiss Timing would like to apologize to all competitors, teams, media and Alpine Skiing followers for this unfortunate incident," the Switzerland-based organization said.

The problems started on a sunbathed Saturday morning at Crans-Montana when the electronic clock failed to stop for four racers crossing the finish line.

The four — all Swiss, wearing start bib numbers 2, 6, 12 and 27 — were all later given times calculated manually.

While the race winner, Olympic champion Sofia Goggia of Italy, was unaffected by the problems, Swiss racers Joana Haehlen and Lara Gut-Behrami were initially placed second and fourth, respectively.

Soon after the race ended — and third-place Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria had taken part in a finish-area ceremony — new manual times were given to Haehlen, who was still second, and Gut-Behrami, who was upgraded to third.

But between Saturday and Tuesday, and after an Austrian team objection, the manual times were reevaluated and found to be wrong.

FIS said Tuesday that recalculating the four Swiss racers' runs had now added 0.13 seconds to their new times, dropping Haehlen and Gut-Behrami dropped to fourth and sixth. For Haehlen, that meant losing her first career podium finish.

Nicole Schmidhofer checks her time after her downhill run on Saturday. The Austrian was awarded third place on Tuesday after an investigation into timing errors during the race. (Alessandro Trovati/Associated Press)

Schmidhofer rose from fourth to runner-up, and extended her points lead in the World Cup downhill standings with two races remaining.

Another Swiss who was timed electronically, world championships silver medallist Corinne Suter, rose from fourth to third.

Organizers said the equipment failure was in part due to the warm weather that had caused the fast-softening snow to melt.

"The reason that the four times were not recorded was as a consequence of the set-up of the photo cells at the finish, which were mounted too high," FIS said. "After two training days the snow level was somewhat lower due to the multiple runs and slipping on the course, as well as melting due to the sunlight.

"Swiss Timing has since checked the timing tapes and recalculated all the manual times from the race using the correct methodology."

Swiss Timing is run by Switzerland-based Swatch Group, and brands World Cup ski races with the Longines name.

On its website, Swiss Timing states: "We are committed to the art of measuring times with precision and reliability using the technologies we have developed to meet the most exacting of standards in every sport."

Race organizers at Crans-Montana, who had no say in choosing the timekeeping operation, must hope the debacle is not bad timing for its bid to host the 2025 world championships. The FIS ruling committee will choose the 2025 host next year.

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