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Thomas Grandi of Canada wins Alta Badia GS


Thomas Grandi of Canada wins Alta Badia GSThomas Grandi, the veteran leader of the underdog Canadian alpine ski team, won the notoriously difficult Alta Badia giant slalom today. It is the first-ever GS victory for a Canadian on the men´s alpine World Cup.

“There were times when I thought about quitting,” said Grandi, who has been on the World Cup since the mid-1990´s. “It was just a belief in myself. I believed that I could do it — that I had the potential and the ability, and that I had to be determined and work hard and it would eventually happen.”

The Canadian team’s staff and athletes were reduced to tears of joy in the finish area as Grandi’s young teammate, J.P. Roy, attacked from the 48th position to finish fifth.

“The tears are coming to our eyes,” said Dusan Grasic, the team´s head technical coach. “It’s just unbelievable. It’s a great feeling that Thomas won, but for me it’s a really big success that J.P. being five. We have a team now. You don’t say much. You just laugh and walk around when something like that happens.”

Grandi ran second-to-last on the second run. After his steady, near-flawless run, only Kalle Palander of Finland was left at the top. After Palander blew out, Roy ran into the finish corral to congratulate the skier who has persevered on the World Cup for so long without a win. “He wasn’t speaking,” said Roy. “He was yelling. I told him I was fifth and he was even more happy.” Roy said he hopes to follow in Grandi´s footsteps.

“I show those guys they can do it,” said Grandi, asked about his role as a team leader. “We train together all the time and they know they are competitive with me in training. They beat me a lot of the time in training, so when I can be successful at the top level, that gives them a lot of confindence. And I think that´s the biggest thing I can give them. And I´m sure that J.P. saw my first run from the lodge and saw that I was second and I´m sure that gave him a lot of confidence. That´s the thing that I can give them that I didn´t have when I came up.”

Francois Sedan, the race director for Rossignol who is intensely loyal to the athletes in his stable, commended Grandi on his performance on a pair of 192-cm Rossignols. “I really like it, because everybody knows that Alta Badia is the most demanding hill of the season,” said Sedan. “We used to win it with Bode Miller, and we win it now with Thomas Grandi. It’s very good for us… This guy is such a nice guy to deal with, and he really deserves it.”

For his part, Miller praised Grandi after the race. “He’s been skiing a long, long time, waiting and working hard,” said Miller. “It’s great to see him on top. He’s one of the best skiers out here, he just doesn’t seem to have the right kind of course-sets and the right conditions for him to win, and today he had it, so it’s great to see.”

Bad day for Bode Miller…
Miller hit a rock about four gates into the first run, grinding the tune off of his edge at the worst possible time: Atop one of the World Cup’s steepest, iciest courses. Miller slid all over the place, finished well off the pace and hurried out of the finish area after the run to spin the lactate out of his legs on a stationary bike.

On the second run he blasted out of the start, trying to salvage the day on the course where he won two years ago. He was ahead at the splits, moving so fast that the cameramen had trouble reacting, creating a jerky image on the jumbo-screen. Then about ten gates from the finish, Miller came over the new artificial knoll that organizers installed this summer and blew by a right-footed turn.

After hanging out in the finish, he retreated to his RV, where young fans stood outside and chanted his name.

Miller gave up his lead in the giant slalom standings to Hermann Maier of Austria, who tied Didier Cuche of Switzerland for third. Maier is solid again in giant slalom, the last event to come around after his surgery. He is looking forward to the races later this week in Flachau, his hometown. ‘It’s a great satisfaction because the last time I competed there I was ranked 50th’ he said, ‘and now I’m the leader.’

The other Americans…
Daron Rahlves had his best giant slalom finish ever, ending the day in eighth. ‘My first World Cup top 10 in GS, and I know I’ve definitely got more potential’ he said. Erik Schlopy was disappointed with his own skiing. ‘Alta Badia’s never been a good place for me, and the streak continues’ he said. (Schlopy’s next entry for his online journal will be posted here next week). Dane Spencer skied aggressively on the first run, and was even leading at the last interval, but ‘ran out of gas’ on the lower part of the hill and finished that run eighth. Figuring there was ‘nothing to lose’ he went for it on the second run, and blew out of the course after losing grip on the injected snow.

Jimmy Cochran had a great performance, finishing 14th despite big mistakes. ‘On this hill, the most important thing is just being aggressive and keeping with it’ he said. ‘You can make mistakes like that, and in a gate you’re right back up to speed.’

Cochran’s run helps the team keep its start spots for future World Cups, but Cochran was most proud of having gotten to ski the ‘Gran Risa’ course, notorious for it’s dogleg turns. ‘The defining feature of this hill is two or three left-footed turns where you’re headed one direction, and you need to come back the other way 90 degrees, and down a new fall line’ he said. ‘You don’t see that on TV, but when you’re coming into those turns, all you see is the gate, and then the woods and the fence.’

In other news…
The men´s downhill at Bormio, which was in danger of being cancelled or moved due to meager snow cover, will begin as planned on December 29, the FIS confirmed on Sunday…Hans Knauss, who on Friday revealed that he had failed a drug test, opted not to start at Alta Badia, a race that he won in 1995.

World Cup

Men’s Giant Slalom
Alta Badia, Italy
Dec. 19, 2004

1. Thomas Grandi, CAN 2:34.23
2. Benjamin Raich, AUT 2:34.80
3. Didier Cuche, SUI 2:35.14
3. Hermann Maier, AUT 2:35.14
5. Jean-Philippe Roy, CAN 2:35.32
6. Mirko DeFlorian, ITA 2:35.55
7. Massimiliano Blardone, ITA 2:345.89
8. Daron Rahlves, USA 2:35.97
9. Joel Chenal, FRA 2:35.99
10. Didier Defago, SUI 2:36.07
11. Manfred Moelgg, ITA 2:36.18
12. Frederic Covili, FRA 2:36.24
12. Davide Simoncelli, ITA 2:35.24
14. James Cochran, USA 2:36.54
15. Lucas Senoner, ITA 2:36.93
16. Fredrik Nyberg, SWE 2:36.94
17. Ondrej Bank, CZE 2:37.01
18. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, NOR 2:37.04
19. Kjetil Jansrud, NOR 2:37.09
20. Erik Schlopy, USA 2:37.30
21. Alessandro Roberto, ITA 2:37.42
22. Aksel Lund Svindal, NOR 2:37.60
23. Sami Uotila, FIN 2:38.11
24. Bjarne Solbakken, NOR 2:38.21
25. Stephan Goergl, AUT 2:38.35
26. Christian Mayer, AUT 2:38.66
27. Bruno Kernen, SUI 2:38.97
28. Dane Spencer, USA 2:41.07
other North Americans:
DNQ 2nd: Francois Bourque, CAN; Jake Zamansky, USA.
DNF 2nd: Bode Miller, USA.

THE SCOOP

By Hank McKee

equipment
Men’s GS, Alta Badia, Italy, Dec. 19, 2004

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1 Grandi, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
2 Raich, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3 Cuche, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3 Maier, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
5 Roy, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
6 DeFlorian, Dynastar/Lange/Look
7 Blardone, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
8 Rahlves, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
9 Chenal, Dynastar/Lange/Look
10 Defago, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol

The men’s Giant Slalom, Alta Badia, Dec. 19, 2004. … It is the 13th of 35 scheduled men’s World Cup races (plus two combined). … It is the fourth of eight sche
duled giant slaloms. … It has a significant margin of victory of more than a half-second (.57).

It is the first career World Cup victory for Thomas Grandi. … He has two additional podiums, a second at Kitzbuehel in slalom 1/25/04 and a third at Park City in GS 11/20/97. … It is the first Canadian win of the season, the first since Genevieve Simard won super G at Cortina 1/14/04… The first for a Canadian male since Cary Mullen won a two run DH at Aspen 3/5/94. … It is the first Canadian win in GS since Kathy Kreiner at Pfronten 1/6/74. … Grandi is the first Canadian male to win a GS. … Grandi was sixth in both of the two GS’s held at Alta Badia last season.

It is the 39th career podium for Benjamin Raich. … His 17th in GS. … It is his fourth podium of the season and second in GS. … It is the 22nd career podium for Didier Cuche. … His fourth in GS. … It is his first podium of the season. … It is the 84th career podium for Hermann Maier. … His 26th in GS. … It is his fifth podium of the season without a win. … He has been on the podium in the last three of the four GS’s held.

Fifth is a career best finish for Jean-Philippe Roy, his previous best being ninth in two slaloms; Kranjska Gora 12/22/01 and Adelboden 1/6/02. … It is his second scoring finish of the season, the other being 22nd at Val d’Isere GS 12/12. … He started in the 48 bib.

It is the 48th career top 10 for Daron Rahlves. … but his first in GS, the previous best a 12th at Adelboden 2/7/04. … The first career points for James Cochran. … He joins Barbara, Bob, Lindy, and Marilyn among Cochran’s on the World Cup scoring list. … The last time a Cochran scored was Lindy 3/5/78 at Stratton. … It is the third scoring finish of the season for Erik Schlopy, all in GS. … Dane Spencer has scored in all four GS’s held this season.

There were two men’s GS held at AltaBadia last season, one won by Kalle Palander (12/14/03) who was a second run DNF, the other by Davide Simoncelli (12/21/03) who finished tied for 12th. … The homestanding Italians pushed five skiers into the top 15.

It was the third DNF of the season for Bode Miller. … Miller – a second run DNF – remains in firm control of the World Cup overall standings leading Hermann Maier 798-479. … Raich is in third place at 456. … Rahlves is the next best American in fifth at 306. … Maier leads the Giant Slalom standings 216-200 for Miller. … Grandi ties Lasse Kjus for third in the GS standings at 180. … Austria leads the Nations Cup standings 4327-2312 over the U.S. … Italy is third at 1495 and the Swiss in fourth at 1453. … Austria leads the men’s standings 2930-1376 over the U.S. with the Swiss third at 1127.

Second Val d´Isere downhill cancelled due to weatherWeather cancellation for women's downhill in Val d'Isere

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