Lienz, Austria Dec. 29--Defending World Cup SL champion Sabine Eggerof Austria climbed out of 11th place on the second run Wednesday to wina slalom when first-run leader Anja Paerson of Sweden straddled a gate.Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN), the only U.S. skier to make thetop-30 cut in the first run, finished 21st in what Coach Georg Capaulcalled "the most bizarre World Cup I've seen."
Egger finished with a two-run time of 1:31.84 to edge Slovenian NatasaBokal by .12. In third place was Austrian Karin Koellerer, who was 30thin the first run; her total time was 1:32.06. In a bit of a fluke,Frenchwoman Christel Saioni and Spela Pretnar of Slovenia - who tied forthe win in the season's first SL a month ago during the Chevy TruckWomen's World Challenge at Copper Mountain, Colo. - tied for fourthplace.
Egger told reporters she hadn't tried the new sidecut racing skis - or"carvers" - during the summer but it became apparent, starting with theChevy Truck Women's World Challenge at Copper Mountain, Colo., the skiswere the coming (and coming rapidly) wave of racing, so she began totrain on them. "We had to make the change and adapt quickly," she said.
Koznick's time was 1:33.04. Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) was 32nd in thefirst run while Tasha Nelson (Mound, MN), returning after a month on thesidelines with a bad sprain of her left knee, was 45th.
Paerson, who dinged a heel Tuesday and was limping after the GS, tookthe first run lead by .27 over Norway's Trine Bakke. On her second run,she was slow at the top "but then put the hammer down and was flying,"Capaul said, until - carrying too much speed - she straddled a gate andskied out, giving Egger the second win of her career and delighting theAustrian spectators.
"We didn't take advantage of an opportunity today. We're unhappy andangry, so we've got some heavy training for the next few days here. It'snot a holiday mood," the U.S. coach said.
"The conditions were fine - it was a nice day - but this was the mostbizarre World Cup I've seen, I think. It was crazy," said Capaul, whohas coached U.S. teams for two decades. "Look at Kristina's time - she's1.2 seconds out and she's 21st! Twenty girls within a second of thewinner! That shows how competitive this has become. I don't rememberseeing such a packed field."
Koznick, who switched equipment during the preseason, is still gettingused to new skis and sidecuts, Capaul said, "and that just takes time.We're staying here over New Year's and training because she needs timeon her skis, and the girls need time. Kristina didn't ski well at all;we're still trying to figure out these short sidecut skis. Sarahstarted 30th but she just didn't get it going and Tasha just needs tospend time on her skis, too. She'll be skiing Europa Cups and FIS racesto get back some of her form."
Capaul said the sidecut revolution, which was so evident in U.S. WorldCup gate races in November, continues "almost daily. You have to standin the finish area and watch everyone as they come down. We had somegirls Tuesday racing GS with men's slalom skis. It's incredible what'sgoing on...every day there's a new thing. It just does not stop. Nobodyknows what's next; believe me, everyone's scrambling."
The next women's races on the Cafe de Colombia World Cup calendar areJan. 5-6 in Maribor, Slovenia, where another SL/GS package is scheduled.