SCHLADMING, Austria -- Canada narrowly missed out on its first medal in the team event at the alpine skiing world championships Tuesday.
The Canadians lost the final dual slalom heat of the bronze-medal match by a hundredth of a second to Germany to miss a spot on the podium.
"We came as close as you can get to winning a bronze medal. The team did fantastic," said Alpine Canada president Max Gartner. "They really stepped it up in front of a huge crowd under the lights."
Overall World Cup champion Marcel Hirscher helped Austria win the event and earn the host country its first gold medal at the championships.
Two strong runs from Mike Janyk of Whistler, B.C., who beat Germany Felix Neureuther, and Erin Mielzynski of Guelph, Ont., who edged superstar Maria Hoefl-Riesch, gave the Canadians a 2-1 lead heading into the final heat.
Phil Brown of Toronto laid down Canada's fastest run of the night but lost by a narrow margin, dropping the Canadians to fourth based on aggregate times.
"That was the single best day of ski racing I've had in my life," Brown said. "That was a lot of fun. The event was really cool. Tough hill, tough snow, but tons of people here. Just to be involved in the race all the way to the end was cool."
The team event has been part of the worlds since 2005, with Austria also winning in 2007. Each nation has four racers, two men and two women, who race head-to-head against their opponents in four parallel races. Each win is worth one point.
A 2-2 tie is decided by adding the times of the fastest man and fastest woman on each team, with the lowest combined time winning.
Marie-Michele Gagnon of Lac Etchemin, Que., and Brittany Phelan of Mont-Tremblant, Que., who subbed in for Gagnon in the semifinals, also skied for the Canadian team.
In his first appearance at the worlds, Hirscher teamed with Philipp Schoerghofer, Michaela Kirchgasser and Nicole Hosp to defeat Sweden 4-0 in the final.
"That was cool, I had a super feeling," said Hirscher, who is among the favourites in the individual giant slalom and slalom events later this week. "It was good fun and I think we all performed really well."
Austria failed to win any event in the first week and was enduring its worst start to a world championship in 26 years with just two bronze medals from six races.
Hirscher said winning the first gold was important for the team ahead of the technical races.
"It's a huge relief for us," Hirscher said. "Our achievements were not all that bad but we had several fourth places and they don't count at world championships."
Cheered on by 15,500 fans, Austria cruised to victory. After a bye in the first round, Austria defeated Slovenia 3-1 in the quarter-finals and downed Germany 4-0 to reach the final.
"It was a very tough competition," Kirchgasser said. "It was fun to compete and it's great we pulled it off."
Neureuther, one of the favourites for Sunday's slalom, escaped injury in the first round after being hit on the right lower leg by opponent Filip Zubcic of Croatia, who lost balance and slid over from the other course.
Neureuther's ski clipped off and the German crashed into a gate. He stood up and touched his knee several times, but remained on the team for the rest of the event.
"I think I was pretty lucky," said Neureuther. "That guy hit me really hard."
Many teams didn't field did their top racers in order to avoid injuries.
The United States, which lost 3-1 to Sweden in the quarter-finals, rested double world champion Ted Ligety, super-G bronze medallist Julia Mancuso and slalom favourite Mikaela Shiffrin, who are all medal contenders in the upcoming individual technical events.
Other gold medallists , including Tina Maze of Slovenia and Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway, didn't race either.
The world championships continue with the women's giant slalom on Thursday.