Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy Jan. 27, 2002 (AP by Jeff Israely)--Norway's Stina Hofgard Nilsen and Andrine Flemmen laughed when they drew the first two starting bibs before their World Cup giant slalom race.
``We joked with each other that we should also finish 1 and 2,'' said Nilsen, who edged her teammate for her first career World Cup win. ``It's incredible, but it happened.''
And for Norway's Olympics hopes, it also happened at the right time.
Flemmen, who entered Sunday's race third in the standings, registered her best finish since winning at Copper Mountain in November.
``Since Copper Mountain I've had my ups and downs, but today I feel back in shape,'' said Flemmen, 27, who hugged her victorious teammate after the race. ``I'm peaking at just the right moment.''
The 22-year-old Nilsen is joining her for the ride. She moved up from third after the first run to pass Flemmen, who had the best morning time.
Nilsen had a combined time of 2 minutes, 44.37 seconds, 0.60 ahead of Flemmen on the Olimpia delle Tofane course. Italy's Karen Putzer finished third, followed by overall World Cup leader Michaela Dorfmeister.
The young Norwegian was coming off a second-place showing in last week's GS at Berchtesgaden, Germany, which was then her best career finish.
``I've had a couple of podium finishes, but it was great to get this first win,'' Nilsen said. ``It really is a dream come true for me to have this first big season in the World Cup.''
Giant slalom points leader Sonja Nef struggled on both runs for her worst showing of the year--11th place--less than two weeks before the Olympics.
Foggy conditions, particularly for the afternoon run, played a role in several performances. Italy's Denise Karbon took advantage of a brief clearing at the start of the second run to register the fastest heat time, moving up to ninth after finishing 30th in the first run.
Sarah Schleper was the best American finisher, placing 14th, followed in 15th place by teammate Kristina Koznick.
``It was tough today, particularly the second run,'' Nilsen said. ``My legs were burning at the end.''
Putzer rebounded from a poor showing last week to return to the podium.
``It's great to do well in front of the home fans,'' Putzer said. ``They give you a lot of support.''
The women's tour moves this week to Are, Sweden, for four World Cup competitions before heading to Salt Lake City for the Olympics.
On Saturday, Austria's Renate Goetschl won the downhill event, a day after being edged for the Super-G win by Hilde Gerg. With her 18th-place finish Sunday, Goetschl moved into a tie with Gerg for second-place in the overall race.
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