Park City, Utah Dec. 29, 2001 (USSA)--Using a new pair of Atomic skis, hometown favorite Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) continuedhis recovery from bronchitis when he claimed the U.S. Ski Team Gold Cup men's giant slalom Saturday and earned awild-card position on the U.S. Olympic team.
ABC will broadcast the men's giant slalom at 1 p.m. (EST) Jan. 5.
Schlopy, 29, had the fastest first and second runs at the Olympic venue to secure his second Olympic team berth as well asearn the winner-take-all $10,000. purse. Schlopy's combined time was 2:22.31. Thomas Vonn (Newburgh, NY) wassecond with a combined time of 2:23.55. Jake Zamansky (Carbondale, C0) placed third in 2:25.50.
"Today was an experiment for me," said Schlopy, who had never before skied in gates with his new equipment. "I went andtried something brand new. The first run I didn't feel very good. In fact, I was very pessimistic about my skiing at thebottom. But it was fast, and that's a good sign. When you don't feel that great and you ski fast, you know things are goingwell. The second run was faster and cleaner and I kind of knew I had a good run when I came through the finish."
Schlopy's new equipment, he explained, allows him to better arc the tops of turns, resulting in cleaner runs.
Bode Miller (Franconia, N.H.), a two-time World Cup winner this season in giant slalom and slalom, had the second-fastesttime in the first run. But he went off course in the second run and did not finish.
"This snow is a little different for me," said Miller. "Part of it was my tactic on the course. When I'm back here I feel like Ican do whatever I want. But I can't do that. I was trying to get a feel for how hard I can push it on this snow. I think I got agood idea of that today. That was the biggest thing I was trying to take out of today."
The reigning national slalom and Super G national titlist, Schlopy acquired his illness at a preseason training camp lastsummer in New Zealand. He has recovered but also suffered setbacks while trying to maintain his training.
Schlopy finished second last March in a giant slalom in Are, Sweden, his best World Cup giant slalom finish of the season. Insix other World Cup GS performances this season, he hasn't earned a top-20 finish. Schlopy finished 34th in the GS at the'94 Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.
"For me, it was the same as any other race; you prepare yourself the same and the results come," said Schlopy. "You've gotBode Miller and Thomas Vonn both skiing really fast, with Bode winning those World Cups. So the rest of us are looking tostep it up and start out 2002 on a positive note."
Vonn was pleased with his effort, with the exception of one miscue in the second run.
"I skied pretty well in the first run and I skied pretty well in the second run," Vonn said. "But I had one big mistake up onthat top part, and against guys like Eric or Bode, you do that and you pretty much seal your fate for the day."