By Steve Keating
VAIL, Colorado (Reuters) - Top-ranked Austria beat surprise package Canada 3-1 in the gold medal final of the team competition at the alpine ski world championships on Tuesday to continue their domination of the event.
While the powerhouse Austrians were favored to end the day atop the podium, 10th-ranked Canada were not expected to escape the opening round but pulled off a string of upsets, taking down number seven Germany, number two Italy in the quarter-finals and sixth-ranked Sweden in the semi-finals.
Canada took their second silver of the world championships while Sweden beat Switzerland 3-1 in the bronze medal final.
It was another dominating performance by the Austrians who celebrated their seventh medal of the championships, and their fourth gold.
Since the team event was first introduced at the 2005 worlds, Austria is the only nation to medal in every edition while also taking gold in 2013 and 2007.
The competition featured the 16 top-ranked nations in a knockout format with skiers going head-to-head on a parallel slalom course.
Each country is allowed a maximum of six skiers (at least two women) with four taking part in each round with the top-seeded nation facing the lowest seed.
The Austrians were led by Michaela Kirchgasser and slalom world champion Marcel Hirscher, who picked up his second gold of the championships having also won the super combined event.
With the Austrian victory, Kirchgasser put her name alongside some of the greatest in alpine skiing, joining Marielle Goitschel, Hanni Wenzel, Ingemar Stenmark and Kjetil Andre Aamodt as the only skiers to win a medal in a specific event at four consecutive championships.
Eva-Maria Brem and Christoph Noesig were the other members of the Austrian team to share in the gold.
"It was unbelievable, a long day ... and a great job to all the guys on the Austrian team but it was very close from the second heat on," said Noesig.
Austria roared its way into the final by demolishing Argentina 4-0 in the opening round, them eliminating Norway 3-1 in the quarters and their bitter alpine rivals Switzerland 3-1 in semis.
Canada sent a shock through the crowd when team captain Erin Mielzynski beat Brem in the opening leg down the Golden Peak track to stake the underdogs to a 1-0 lead.
But Hirscher quickly restored order by beating Phil Brown to level the final before Kirchgasser and Noesig clinched the gold.
"I think we are all proud and I am proud of everyone on this team," said Mielzynski. "Everyone fought, it was a close final and it feels good to stand on the podium, especially as a team."
(Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)