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Park City Opening World Cup: Womens GS

Features
posted: 11/23/2002

PARK CITY, Utah, Nov. 21, 2002 (AP) -- Birgit Heeb-Batliner pulled ahead on the next-to-last run and held on for her first World Cup victory, taking Thursday's giant slalom.

The 30-year-old from Liechtenstein, with one career second place and two thirds, had a combined time of 2:26.78, just ahead of Alexandra Meissnitzer, who was timed in 2.26.84 and Janica Kostelic, who finished in 2:26.96. Kostelic won four medals in the Salt Lake City Olympics, including the giant slalom on the same mountain.

Kirsten Clark was the top U.S. racer, finishing 13th in 2:29.35.

The three medalists were among the final six skiers down the mountain and placed despite balmy conditions that slowed the course down. Temperatures on the cloudless afternoon reached 51 degrees.

Meissnitzer was first after the opening run with a 0.06-second lead over Heeb-Batliner, who got off to a great start in her second run before nearly falling at the halfway point. Heeb-Batliner's outside ski slipped and her weight went toward the tips, but she swung her right arm to right herself and went on to take a 0.18-second lead on Kostelic, whose second run of the 1:14.39 was the fastest of the afternoon.

The last skier was Meissnitzer, who was slightly faster than Heeb-Batliner at the top but couldn't hold on for her 12th career World Cup win. Heeb-Batliner, waiting patiently, raised her poles in her left arm when the big-screen monitor showed Meissnitzer's combined time was 0.06 slower.

A handful of Swiss skiers, with whom Heeb-Batliner trains, jumped and cheered for the World Cup veteran's first win.

Nicole Hosp, who tied for first in the season opener at Soelden, Austria, Oct. 26, was on pace to take the lead in the second run before falling, the 13th spill of the day. Hosp's downhill ski went out from under her and she spun backward, then tumbled into the fence. It was just the third career World Cup race for Hosp, who got right up and appeared to be OK.

Five of the first 10 skiers fell on their first run. Seven more didn't finish the morning run.

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