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Tanja Poutiainen wins first Croatian alpine World Cup; Koz second

Tanja Poutiainen wins first Croatian alpine World Cup; Koz secondTanja Poutiainen from Finland overcame two long and difficult slalom courses to take the win in the first World Cup ever to be run in Croatia. Poutiainen found herself in third place in the first run behind Austrian Marlies Schild and American Sarah Schleper. But both Schild and Schleper ran into trouble on the second run, allowing Poutiainen’s total time of 1.50.71 to stand up for the victory, just barely eking-out American Kristina Koznick.

Koznick is accustomed to skiing under the lights after growing up night-skiing in Minnesota, and the moderate rolling terrain of Mount Sljeme bears a strong resemblance to the race hill at Lutsen, Minnesota. Koznick was fourth after the first run, and then torched her second run to move into second, only .07 seconds off Poutiainen’s pace. Schild recovered quickly from her mistake on the rolling upper part of the course to hang on to the third step on the podium. Schleper, who also skidded low on two occasions on that section, fell to sixth.

‘I’m disappointed’ said Schleper after the race. ‘I was in there after the first run and then I made a huge mistake. I just came over a pitch with my feet too close together and slid I almost stopped.’

Pre-race favorite Janica Kostelic, who grew up skiing at Mount Sljeme and lives at the foot of the ski area, made an uncharacteristic mistake only 17 seconds into her run, straddling a gate and putting herself out of the competition. The Olympic champion, who has sparked such a fervor for ski racing in Croatia, stayed on the side of the hill for a moment with her head bowed in disbelief, and then sped down the side of the course, avoiding cameras and fans. She eventually returned to the race hill to acknowledge her fans and cheer on her teammates.

‘I still don’t understand what took place on the course’ said Kostelic. ‘I still have tears. I’m really disappointed and sorry. I’m especially disappointed for my fans who came here hoping I would do well.’

Over 20,000 vociferous fans lining the course and packed into the finish arena found consolation in the performances of two other Croatia standouts Nika Fleiss and Ana Jelusic. The two youngsters both broke into the top ten, placing ninth and tenth, respectively.

The U.S. team not only had Koznick in second and Schleper in sixth, but an aggressive second run from Resi Stiegler moved her from 15th in the first run to an overall finish of 10th. Stiegler, racing in what the announcer call ‘her fetish helmet with floppy glue-on ears’ put down one of the fastest second runs.

Julia Mancuso skied into the points with a 20th place, and World Cup rookie, Lauren Ross scored in her second World Cup slalom this season with a 29th.

Canadian Brigitte Acton made a strong move from the 39th start position to finish 21st.

In the topsy-turvy race for the overall World Cup title, Poutiainen found herself back in the driver’s seat over Renate Goetschl. Kostelic and Anja Paerson from Sweden, who hiked on her first run and did not qualify, hope to get back in the chase this weekend with a slalom and giant slalom at Maribor, Slovenia.

World Cup

Women’s Slalom (night)
Zagreb Sljeme, Croatia
Jan. 20, 2005

1. Tanja Poutiainen, FIN 1:50.71
2. Kristina Koznick, USA 1:50.78
3. Marlies Schild, AUT 1:51.19
4. Nicole Hosp, AUT 1:51.63
5. Sonja Nef, SUI 1:51.74
6. Sarah Schleper, USA 1:51.75
7. Therese Borssen, SWE 1:52.00
8. Nika Fleiss, CRO 1:52.02
9. Ana Jelusic, CRO 1:52.05
10. Resi Stiegler, USA 1:52.12
11. Veronika Zuzulova, SVK 1:52.18
12. Anna Ottosson, SWE 1:52.29
13. Martina Ertl, GER 1:52.61
14. Manuela Moelgg, ITA 1:52.87
15. Florine DeLeymarie, FRA 1:52.97
16. Nicole Gius, ITA 1:53.20
17. Sarka Zahrobska, CZE 1:53.34
18. Brigitte Acton, CAN 1:53.38
19. Marlies Oester, SUI 1:53.42
20. Julia Mancuso, USA 1:53.54
21. Katarzyna Karasinska, POL 1:53.58
22. Sabine Egger, AUT 1:53.60
23. Annalisa Ceresa, ITA 1:53.64
24. Christel Pascal, FRA 1:53.67
25. Maria Pietilae Holmner, SWE 1:53.70
26. Henna Raita, FIN 1:53.85
27. Noriyo Hiroi, JPN 1:54.40
28. Vanessa Vidal, FRA 1:55.33
29. Lauren Ross, USA 1:55.59
other North Americans:
DNQ 2nd: Britt Janyk, CAN.
DNF 1st: Kaylin Richardson, USA

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee
equipment
Women’s Slaloom, Zagreb, Jan. 20, 2005

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Poutiainen, Volkl/Tecnica/Marker
2 Koznick, Volkl/Tecnica/Marker
3 Schild, Atomic/Lange/Atomic
4 Hosp, Volkl/Fischer/Marker
5 Nef, Volkl/Lange/Marker
6 Schleper, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
7 Borssen, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
8 Fleiss, Dynamic/Salomon/Salomon
9 Jelusic, Dynamic/Salomon/Atomic
10 Stiegler, Dynastar/Lange/Look

Women’s Slalom Zagreb, Croatia … It is the 22nd of 32 (plus 1 combined) races on the women’s World Cup schedule. … It is the sixth of eight scheduled slaloms. … It is the first alpine World Cup ever in Croatia. … It is the second and final night slalom on the women’s schedule. … Winning margin is less than a tenth of a second. … Top four skiers all within same second.

It is the fifth career win for Tanja Poutiainen… fourth of the season. … Four of her five career wins are in slalom. … She has won three of the six slaloms held this season.

It is the 20th career podium (all in slalom) for Kristina Koznick. … Her third this season. … Only Tamara McKinney has more women’s slalom podiums among U.S. skiers. … She has been in the top 10 in seven of the eight races she’s finished this season.

It is the 12th career podium for Marlies Schild. … her fifth this season. … She and Poutiainen are the only women to win more than one slalom this season. …. Her five podiums this season rank her second among Austrian women, behind Renate Goetschl.

It is the 16th time Sarah Schleper has been sixth or better in a World Cup. … It is her fifth top 10 this season. … Semmering in the only site this season at which she was better than sixth. … It is the third career top 10 for Resi Stiegler. … And second of the season… both in night slaloms. … The U.S. last had three women in the top 10 of a slalom 2/8/2004 at Zweisel. … It is a career best result among four for Brigitte Acton, and her first slalom score. … It is her third score of the season. … It is the 14th scoring result of the season for Julia Mancuso. … Her second in slalom. … It is the second career and seasonal scoring result for Lauren Ross.

Tanja Poutiainen regains the World Cup overall lead over Renate Goetschl (did not race) 806-798. … Third ranked Janica Kostelic (789) was a first run DNF. … Top American is Lindsey Kildow (did not race) in sixth with 638pts. … Poutiainen holds the slalom standings lead 460-340 over Marlies Schild. … Kristina Koznick is third at 310 and Sarah Schleper fifth at 178. … With two races left, only three women can mathematically win the slalom title: Poutiainen, Schild, or Koznick. Ironically, in the first race ever in Croatia, national icon Janica Kostelic lost her chance for a third slalom crown. … Austrian leads the Nations Cup standings 8843-4217 for the U.S. … Austrian women lead the U.S. 3920-2332.

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