Cortina: Niki Hosp wins giant slalom; Mancuso fifth; Picabo speaks


Cortina: Niki Hosp wins giant slalom; Mancuso fifth; Picabo speaksCORTINA D’AMPEZZO, Italy Austria’s Niki Hosp won her first World Cup of the season Sunday, beating Canada’s Genevieve Simard in the Cortina giant slalom. Elisabeth Goergl of Austria was third.

‘Last season was very difficult for me because I had a lot of injuries’ said Hosp. ‘Just at the finish I became a lot better and I had three podium places at the end. This season starts very good, but 100 percent of my skiing was not ready until now.’

The top American, Julia Mancuso, was fifth. It capped a solid weekend for Mancuso, who was runner-up in both Friday’s super G and Saturday’s downhill.

‘I’ve had a lot of trouble in GS and we were training it in Kirchberg and I could feel it getting better’ said Mancuso. ‘I was just so totally comfortable today.’

Mancuso will race downhill, super G, giant slalom and combined at the Olympic Winter Games, now less than two weeks away. She is also qualified for slalom, but is considering skipping it in order to save a spot for her teammates and to train for the Olympic giant slalom (which follows slalom for the women).

Maria Jose Rienda Contreras was in the lead after the first run, but blew out on the second run, flying past the under gate in a delay midway through the second-run course, screaming in frustration as she handed the win to Hosp.

Only Mancuso and Stacey Cook, both of the Tahoe area, qualified for the second run among Americans. Cook had never raced a World Cup giant slalom, and didn’t know she would get to until 6 the night before. She wore bib No. 61 and finished the first run in 30th, giving her the No. 1 spot in the start order for the sunny second run.

‘I wasn’t aggressive enough on the second run, and I made some mistakes’ said the speed specialist. ‘I’ve never had to do two World Cup runs in one day before.’

Lindsey Kildow, Sarah Schleper and Lauren Ross failed to finish the first run, and Kristina Koznick was disqualified in that outing. The three other Americans in the race didn’t qualify for the second run, finishing 36th (Libby Ludlow), 38th (Jessica Kelley) and 40th (Resi Stiegler).

It was sunny and a little bit warm in Cortina, for the first time all week. The mountain has been slammed by the snowstorm that has blanketed northern Italy.

Between the women’s runs in Cortina, the men were racing super G at Garmisch, where Scott Macartney had a career-best second-place finish his first podium.

Anja Paerson of Sweden came into the race wearing the red leader’s bib, and will hold onto it despite a disappointing sixth-place finish (Janica Kostelic, who was 15 points behind Paerson in the GS standings, finished seventh).

Paerson won the most recent giant slalom (at Lienz), and also won the Cortina super G on Friday, but skipped Saturday’s snowy downhill to preserve herself for this race.

Simard’s only World Cup win came at Cortina in the super G in 2004. ‘I had a really hard month in January, without any good results’ she said. ‘I kept fighting and working hard and the month can end on a good note.’

She will compete in next week’s giant slaloms at Ofterschwang, Germany, then head home to Canada for a week before returning to Europe to train prior to the Olympic super G and giant slalom.

Kildow skied out early in the first run, but managed to stay on her feet. ‘I hit a bit of a groove and I T-boned the rut’ she said afterward. ‘It was a sidehill fallaway so I didn’t really have a chance.’

Kildow said she hasn’t had much giant slalom training. ‘My sense of tactics in GS is definitely not there’ she said. ‘I’ve been trying to get back in downhill and super G, which is my priority.’

This was the fifth women’s giant slalom of the World Cup season. The first was the season opener in Soelden, Austria, won by Tina Maze. The next three came on Dec. 10 at Aspen, Colorado (winner: Rienda Contreras of Spain), Dec. 21 at Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic (winner: Janica Kostelic of Croatia) and Dec. 30 at Lienz, Austria (winner: Paerson). The Jan. 7 race at Maribor was canceled because of squishy snow. That race has been rescheduled for next weekend in Ofterschwang, Germany.

Picabo speaks
We caught up with Picabo Street a few weeks ago and asked what America’s greatest downhiller thought of Cortina.

‘They have these course on the men’s side = classic races like Wengen and Kitzbuehel, that they have every year, no matter what’ explained Street. ‘Cortina is a classic and premiere race for the women.’

In case you want to quibble, Daron Rahlves can indeed be called America’s greatest downhiller, with the same number of World Cup wins as Street (nine). But Street is the only American to win the World Cup downhill discipline title, a goal Rahlves is aiming for this year and one that Lindsey Kildow gave up on Saturday.

Street won the Cortina d’Ampezzo downhill twice, in 1995 and 1996, and had some of her breakthrough results before that. ‘My fondest memories of racing are in Cortina’ she said. ‘I love it there.’

‘The Dolomites are beautiful and awe-inspiring. The whole thing is put into perspective. I feel insignificant yet free. The mountains are so powerful if you let them be.’

Snowstorm good for Italy
The snowfall that delayed Saturday’s downhill at Cortina, and then required organizers to begin it from the lower start, was good news for the other side of Italy, where the Olympic Winter Games are now only two weeks away.

As of noon on Sunday, Sestriere has gotten 50 to 60 centimeters of snow (20 to 24 inches) from the snowstorm. Sestriere will host men’s and women’s technical events, and the men’s speed events.

Warm winds on the top of the men’s downhill at Sestriere had left the upper part of the course bare, and final construction work at the Olympic villages had left a film of dust over what snow was there.

Now it appears that the men’s downhill can proceed from the very top, instead of the alternate start which had been considered – which would have put American Daron Rahlves at a distinct disadvantage.

Women’s giant slalom
Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy
Jan. 29, 2006

1. Nicole Hosp, AUT 2:33.51
2. Genevieve Simard, CAN 2:33.82
3. Elisabeth Goergl, AUT 2:34.08
4. Allison Forsyth, CAN 2:34.11
5. Julia Mancuso, USA 2:34.38
6. Anja Paerson, SWE 2:34.53
7. Janica Kostelic, CRO 2:34.71
8. Andreas Fischbacher, AUT 2:35.23
9. Michaela Kirchgasser, AUT 2:35.11
10. Denise Karbon, ITA 2:35.43
11. Tina Maze, SLO 2:35.50
12. Manuela Moelgg, ITA 2:35.54
13. Eveline Rohregger, AUT 2:35.57
14. Maria Pietilae-Holmner, SWE 2:35.62
15. Karen Putzer, ITA 2:35.75
16. Nadia Styger, SUI 2:35.82
16. Martina Ertl-Renz, GER 2:35.82
18. Anna Ottosson, SWE 2:36.06
19. Tanja Poutiainen, FIN 2:36.28
20. Ana Drev, SLO 2:36.34
21. Michaela Dorfmeister, AUT 2
:36.35
22. Marlies Schild, AUT 2:36.46
23. Anja Blieninger, GER 2:36.48
24. Fraenzi Aufdenblatten, SUI 2:36.89
25. Kathrin Hoelzl, GER 2:36.98
26. Ingrid Jacquemod, FRA 2:36.99
27. Silvia Berger, AUT 2:37.28
28. Stacey Cook, USA 2:37.69
29. Sarka Zahrobska, CZE 2:37.70
Other North Americans:
DNQ 2nd: Brigitte Acton, Sophie Splawinski, CAN; Libby Ludlow, Jessica Kelley, Resi Stiegler, USA.
DNS: Kristen Mielke, USA.
DNF 1st: Sarah Schleper, Lindsey Kildow, Lauren Ross; Chrstina Lustenberger, CAN.
DSQ 1st: Kristina Koznick, USA.

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

Equipment
Women’s GS, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Jan. 29, 2006

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1. Hosp, Volkl/Fischer/Marker
2. Simard, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
3. Goergl, Blizzard/Lange/Marker
4. Forsyth, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
5. Mancuso, Rossignol/Lange/Rossignol
6. Paerson, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
7. Kostelic, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
8. Fischbacher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9. Kirchgasser, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10. Karbon, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon

Women’s giant slalom, Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. … It is the 24th event of the women’s 34 race, two combined World Cup schedule. … It is the sixth scheduled GS, the fifth held (The fifth was moved from Maribor Jan 7 to Ofterschwang Feb. 3).

It is the fourth career World Cup win for Nicole Hosp. … Her third in GS. … Her first since December 2003. … It is her fourth podium of the season covering three disciplines. … She has also placed second GS Lienz, second SL Lienz and third SG St. Moritz this season.

It is the fourth career podium for Genevieve Simard. … Her first of the season. … Her only win also came at Cortina (SG Jan. 14, 2004). … It is the eighth podium of the season for Canada. … Simard’s next best placing this season is 6th Aspen SG Dec. 9.

It is the eighth career World Cup podium for Elisabeth Goergl. … Her third in GS, and all third-place finishes. … It is her second podium in two days, having also finished third in the Cortina DH. … She missed a chance at the trifecta by DNFing in the SG. …

It is the eighth time of Allison Forsyth’s career she has been fourth or better in a World Cup GS. … It is easily her best result of the season, the previous best being 11th at Aspen GS Dec. 10. … For Julia Mancuso, fifth is the fourth-best result of the season… And third best of the weekend. … It is her best GS result of the season. … Her career best in GS is fourth place, accomplished twice (Santa Caterina Jan 8, 2005, and Are Feb. 20, 2005). … It is the fifth career scoring result for Stacey Cook, her first in a discipline other than DH. … All five of her scores have come this season.

Janica Kostelic (seventh in race) maintains a comfortable lead in the women’s overall World Cup standings 1,264-1,030 over Michaela Dorfmeister (21st in race). … Anja Paerson (sixth in race) is third at 941. … Lindsey Kildow (a first-run DNF) is the top American in overall standings at fifth with 683 points. … Paerson leads the GS standings 325-306 over Kostelic. … Kathrin Zettel (first-run DNF) is third at 240. … Simard is the top North American in GS in seventh position with 153 points. … Julia Mancuso is the top American in 17th place with 95 points. … Winning margin is .31 of a second. … Top five skiers are within a second. … Top 11 within two seconds.

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