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Lahtela Takes Freestyle Ski Title

Park City, UT, Jan. 8 (AP by Tim Korte)--Janne Lahtela of Finland skied a precise run, then took advantage of a crash by teammate Mikko Rokainen to win a men's World Cup moguls event Saturday at the site of the event for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Sandra Schmitt of Germany won her first World Cup event, taking the women's title on a course at Deer Valley Resort that ran a little longer than most skiers were accustomed to seeing.

Evan Dybvig of Tunbridge, Vt., finished second in the men's competition and Ann Battelle of Steamboat Springs, Colo., was the No. 2 woman, the strongest showing of the season by the Americans.

The U.S. had four finalists in the men's competition and two in the women's.

``It's always nice to do well on your home turf,'' Battelle said. ``To do well on the Olympic course is definitely an edge, although I wish I could have laid down a little better run today. I cut it up at the bottom.''

Canadian Pierre Rousseau was third in the men's competition after skiing the day's fastest run, a 26.92-second effort that was almost 1 1/2 seconds faster than Lahtela. Rousseau was slightly off balance after a minor mistake on the top jump.

``I was a little long on my first jump and it really got me going,'' Rousseau said. ``I'm just glad I hit it.''

Marja Elfman of Sweden finished third among the women.

Rokainen and Kari Traa of Norway both came in leading the World Cup standings but each lost their balance during aggressive runs and finished at the bottom of the day's results.

A moderate snowfall started as the women began the finals, and race officials scattered pine branches down the 265-meter course to improve visibility.

Lahtela's run included a double daffy with a twist on the upper jump and a fast-rotating triple twist on the lower jump. He skied sixth among 12 racers in the finals then waited patiently to see if his lead would stand.

Ronkainen, skiing second to last, was blazing downhill when he lost his balance below the second jump. His right ski missed a groove in a trough and he tumbled forward into a gate.

``I got really scared when I saw Mikko falling,'' said Lahtela, who watched from the finish area. ``He fractured a bone in his face in our previous competition, so I'm glad there was no harm to him.''

Dybvig drew cheers with an exciting run that featured two full spins on the upper jump. He landed slightly off balance on the lower jump, a triple twist, but raced across the finish line in second place.

``I always do a 720 on the upper air,'' Dybvig said. ``I'm thinking about the 720 all the way down the run so if I did it on the bottom air, I'd probably screw something up.''

Most World Cup moguls courses are 230 or 240 meters long. Schmitt said she could feel the difference as she cleared the second jump, where the finish line would be at most other venues, but she pressed on.

``It was a really long course but you get used to it with three days of training,'' Schmitt said.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press

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