Soelden, Austria, Oct. 27, 2001--Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, looking as much at home on a giant slalom course as she did winning the goldmedal in downhill at last February's World Championships, tore through a sun-splashed second run Saturday to win the opening race of theOlympic season by .41 over Sonja Nef of Switzerland. Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN) had the best U.S. result, finishing 15th.
Dorfmeister, second behind Nef in the first run, finished with a two-run total of 2:28.38 with Nef, who had won six straight giant slaloms and isthe defending World Cup and reigning world champion, timed in 2:28.79. Frenchwoman Regine Cavagnoud hung-up the fastest second runand finished third in 2:29.98. Completing the top five on the Rettenbach Glacier: Canadian Allison Forsyth of Canada in fourth place and MariaJose Rienda Contreras of Spain in fifth.
"It's a perfect season start. Winning here was a major goal for me," Dorfmeister said. "I was very fast in the lower part but i was a littlesurprised. I thought with the softer snow it would be tougher, so I really attacked to make-up time." She overcame a .15 deficit after the first run.
Nef told reporters, "Yes, there was a lot of pressure on me with the win streak, but not as much as at the World Championships last February. Iskied very well in the steep section but made some mistakes at the bottom. I'm still happy with my finish."
Although she trained a lot of GS early in the summer, Cavagnoud explained she had suffered a bad fall in training in August, suffering aconcussion, which has taken time to recover from. "I was aiming for a top result here but not thinking about the podium," she explained.
For the three U.S. women, Koznick was 26th in the first run and, with the eight-fastest second run, moved into the top 15; her total time was2:31.55. Schleper, 20th in the first run, finished 28th (2:32.27) while Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO), starting 51st, failed to make thesecond-run cut.
Koznick, who conceded she was "more nervous than normal" before the race, was 26th after the first run and, starting fifth in the flip-30 formatfor the final run, attacked to move up substantially. "It's like a preseason race. We have one more month until Aspen The Chevy Truck AspenWinternational Nov. 22-25, until the season really gets into full swing. No one wants to peak now," she said. "To walk away from here and tohave done some good things is all anyone wants. For everybody to be three-quarters ready but to be on a challenging hill is hard...
"In my heart, I wanted to be top 15, but I knew my GS training wasn't going that great. My slalom training has been great but my GS was justokay. I knew I could be top 20 and if I did that I think I'm set-up nicely for Aspen. Actually, about two weeks ago I was upset one day in training.'I'm on a plateau and I feel like I'm hitting my head against the wall.' But in GS I went from 70th in the world to start the 2000 season to being inthe top 30, but the jumps don't keep going like that. This year," Koznick said, "technically, I'm much better in GS than last year."
She said one major goal this winter is "to be unafraid, when I get to the finish to know I put everything on the line. I was pretty nervous thismorning -- I don't know why -- but I went for it. I made one huge mistake in the first run, but I got the opportunity to go again and I definitely feellike I showed myself this GS is something I can do, can do top 10, top 10 and gradually break in. I still had a little mistake on my second runbut I was much more aggressive."
Click here for Koznick mini interview
Schleper, who had a podium in both GS and slalom a year ago, said making the top-30 cutoff in the first run after hyper-extending her lweft legFriday in training helped her relax a bit. "This has a strong pitch but it doesn't seem that hard. I thought I had it scouted pretty good. It was kindof weird Friday -- I caught an edge and hyper-extended my leeg. It was pretty good today, so I could pick it up...and I got a result," she said.
"If my results get better every time, it'll be a good GS year," she said.
The men race Sunday in another GS and the U.S. Ski Team will have seven starters: Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT), who is following the bestseason a U.S. man has had in GS since Phil Mahre won the overall and GS titles in 1983; Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), who rebounding fromtore knee ligaments at World Championships and an aggressive rehab program prescribed by Dr. Richard Steadman that required nosurgery; Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA); Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, NY), Dane Spencer (Boise, ID), Chip Knight (Stowe, VT), and CaseyPuckett (Aspen, CO).
CAFE DE COLOMBIA WORLD CUP
Soelden, AUT - Oct. 27
Women's GS (Season Opener)
1. Michaela Dorfmeister, Austria, 2:28.38
2. Sonja Nef, Switzerland, 2:28.79
3. Regine Cavagnoud, France, 2:28.98
4. Allison Forsyth, Canada, 2:30.51
5. Maria Jose Rienda Contreras, Spain, 2:30.64
6. Selina Heregger, Austria, 2:30.86
7. Silke Bachmann, Italy, 2:30.87
8. Ylva Nowen, Sweden, 2:30.92
9. Brigitte Obermoser, Austria, 2:30.93
10. Anna Ottosson, Sweden, 2:30.94
15. Kristina Koznick, Burnsville, MN 2:31.55
28. Sarah Schleper, Vail, CO, 2:32.27
Did not qualify for 2nd Run: Caroline Lalive, Steamboat Springs, CO.