Ertl Wins Women's World Cup Opener

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SOELDEN, Austria Oct. 25, 2003 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Martina Ertl of Germany opened the World Cup ski season by winning a giant slalom Saturday, her first victory in three years.

``This is absolutely sensational,'' said Ertl, who screamed in the finish area when she realized she had won. ``Unbelievable. I've been waiting so long.''

She had a two-run time of 2 minutes, 31.86 seconds in recording her 14th World Cup victory.

Anja Paerson of Sweden, the World Cup champion and reigning world championship gold medalist, was second in 2:32.06. Maria Jose Rienda Contreras was third in 2:32.25, giving Spain its first top-three finish since Carolina Ruiz Castillo in 2000.

Sarah Schleper of the United States was seventh in 2:34.30.

``I'm psyched,'' Schleper said. ``The atmosphere on our team is getting better and better.''

Teammate Kirsten Clark was 23rd, and Caroline Lalive was 28th.

Ertl's last World Cup victory was a giant slalom on the same site in October 2000. She has been struggling since a series of knee injuries in that season.

The German was third in the 2002 Olympic combined event, which adds the downhill and slalom times.

``It's been two years that I've been injury-free, but it has been a long road back to the top,'' Ertl said. ``I am lucky that I am a person who has a lot of energy and determination and I really wanted to fight.''

Paerson, who has added the speed disciplines to her regimen, had trouble adjusting to the slope.

``The snow conditions were tough,'' she said. ``I was all over the place and it was difficult to find my rhythm.''

Schleper was tied for 13th after the first run, then rose to seventh after posting the fifth-fastest second run.

``I'm believing more and more in myself,'' she said. ``The first run, I made a pretty bad mistake coming onto the flats and that cost me a bit. I let it go on the second run.''

Chimene Alcott finished 25th in 2:36.54, becoming the first British woman to qualify for the second run of a World Cup giant slalom.

The men's World Cup season opens Sunday with a giant slalom.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press