Sestriere, Italy Mar. 10--Kristina Koznick (Burnville, MN), feeling more confident every race with shorter skis, out-battled softening snow Friday to collect the third World Cup slalom win of her career by four-hundredths of a second. She led two otherteammates into the top 16 as Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO) hung-up a career-best 13th and Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO),rebounding after a rock gouged her first-run skis, was 16th.
Koznick, wearing bib No. 3, was second on the first run and made up a .74 deficit with a torrid run as the 45-degree weather turnedSestriere's course - with its notoriously flat and flatter bottom sections - into a swamp. Her winning two-run time was 1:42.50with Christel Saioni of France second in 1:42.54. Slovenian Spela Pretnar, the World Cup SL leader, took third in 1:42.57 withfirst-run leader Anja Paerson of Sweden, who skied right after Koznick, dropping to fourth at 1:42.88. Koznick's win - her firstsince Semmering, Austria, during last season - boosts her over the 400-point mark and means she'll be able to ski both SL and GS atWorld Cup Cup Finals in another week.
Lalive, with an outside shot of making the World Cup Finals - if she were sixth (to move into the top 25 in SL), started 27th and waseighth on the first run. However, she made a couple of errors onthe lower portion of the course, coudln't maintain her speed and hadto settle for 13th in 1:43.43. Schleper, angry after a rock tore a hole in one of the edges on a ski to drop her to 25th in the first run,switched skis and scorched the second course; her sixth-fastest time boosted her nine spots with a total time of 1:44.12.
"I had a very bad start of the season. As you know, all of us turned to short skis," Koznick said, "I changed the equipment to Volkl,too, so I had to handle two changes at a time, which wasn't easy. Now, there's one more race World Cup Finals outside Bormio, Italy.I know the Bormio piste, and I think that if the snow stays hard, I'll make a good race there, too."
Head Coach Marjan Cernigoj said 45-degree weather "really hurt the last five, six, eight skiers. They lost a half-second or so on thebottom. Koz was one-hundredth behind on top but she got it back on the bottom. She really won it on the bottom."
"Kristina's first run was not that flawless," said SL/GS Head Coach Georg Capail, "so she knew she could do better....And then thesecond run she definitely rocked. It was a tremendous performance."
The women race giant slalom Saturday, the second half of a weekend washed out Jan. 29-30 in Zwiesel, Germany, and then head toBormio.