Cortina D'Ampezzo, Italy Jan. 23--An attacking attitude almost costAmericans Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN) and Sarah Schleper (Vail,CO) in their second run Sunday, but they both out-battled mid-racesnafus to hang-up top-20 finishes in a World Cup giant slalom whereSweden's Anna Ottosson earned her first win.
Race coverage will be at 7 p.m. EST today on Outdoor Life Network.
Ottosson, who previously had three top-3s in her career, led the firstrun and went on to win with a total time of 2:45.76. Tied for secondplace in the eighth GS of the winter were Canadian Allison Forsyth -bidding to be the first Canadian woman to win a GS since Kathy Kreiner(who would be the Olympic GS champ in 1976) in the '74 season - andBirgit Heeb of Liechtenstein in 2:46.63.
Koznick, a former junior GS champion in her first year of giant slalomon the World Cup tour, started 34th. She was 11th in the first run and,after slamming into a gate panel ("I mean, she was heavy into it, butpowered through," said Coach Georg Capaul), finished with a 2:48.59.Schleper was 20th in the first run and after her tussle with a gatepanel - "It cost her at least a full second," said Capaul - still woundup 20th; her time was 2:49.89. Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO)was a DNF after catching an edge on the top half of the course.
"They were both full-on attacking on that second run," Capaul said."Kristina skied into a panel at the top and Sarah made her mistake onthe bottom flat - she hit a panel with a hand and got wrapped up but wasstrong enough to keep going."
"I pulled a slalom move," said Koznick, one of the top World Cup slalomskiers for three years and in her first season of GS racing. "No, itwasn't in my game plan. I was skiing well and i was just about ninegates into it and I thought, 'Oh man.' Stripper Coach Dan Stripp saidhe didn't think I'd make it. It certainly wasn't what I would've wanted.
"But I skied probably my best GS above and below it, so I feel goodabout that. Sarah and I talked about it and we both said, 'At least wewere going for it.' For me to be this competitive is GS is such aconfidence booster."
Capaul said the "Char-r-r-rge!" mentality has been building with thewomen gate-runners. "When you attack, you sometimes make mistakes -sometimes - but this was outstanding, really stellar skiing. A year ago,we just had Caroline here; Sarah wasn't skiing because of a broken legand Kristina wasn't doing GS. So, now we have three girls who are notjust skiing but challenging. We he, Stripp and Head Coach MarjanCernigoj talk continuously about this; we saw in Berchtesgaden GS/SLJan. 15-16 where they could be top-3 in sections, so they know they cando it. We're taking chances and going for it.
"Now, it's not a question of someone getting into the second run. Weknow all three can be in the second run and then they look to move evenfurther forward. Sure, we're disappointed they didn't go further forwardin this one - it was a really perfect course for Sarah, steep and hardsnow - but they're getting there," he said.
The steep, course was outstanding, Capaul said, but 13 women were DNFsin the first run and another five failed to finish the second run,including two Austrians - World Cup No. 2 Renate Goetschl and '93 WorldCup champion Anita Wachter.
"It's nice to be angry about 'only' 16th or 20th. We've shown thebiggest improvement in GS this season and I like what I've been seeing.There's such a good mental approach from the girls - the frame of mindis very good," said Cernigoj.
The U.S. women will compete in the Dutch national SL championship inZauchensee, Austria, before moving on to Zwiesel for another World CupGS/SL combination over Super Bowl Weekend.