Austrian Wachter Wins GS in Lienz

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Lienz, Austria Dec. 28--Seasoned AnitaWachter of Austria, the 1993 World Cup champion who mulled retirementafter the 1998 Olympics and now takes it year by year, rocketed out offourth place after the first run Tuesday and won a giant slalom withCanadian Allison Forsyth in second place, .33 back. Sarah Schlepercontinued her march toward the top 30, finishing 26th in what CoachGeorg Capaul "may be a breakthrough for her."

Wachter had the fastest second run and posted a two-run time of2:22.33 for the 19th World Cup win of her career; it was her first GSvictory of the season. Forsyth was runnerup in 2:22.66 withLiechtensteiner Birgit Heeb third (2:22.92). By finishing fifth,Austrian Renate Goetschl took over the World Cup points lead after 14races with 491.

Schleper, who has scored points in every World Cup race since thefirst two, was 29th after the first run and started the second run fast,only to ski conservatively at the bottom to ensure she finished andpicked up World Cup points. Her two-run time was 2:25.68. KristinaKoznick (Burnsville, MN), starting 59th and caught in a snowstorm thatwalloped the back of the field, failed to qualify for a second run afterfinishing 38th despite the storm.

"Sarah ran both runs the same way - fast at the top and then shejust clamped down," Capaul said. "She was 15th on the first at the topand ninth on the second - she had a great start each time, but then sheshut it down. She was afraid she might not finish. Still, today may be abreakthrough for her because she was so angry at herself in the finish.She wants to get into that top-30 start list, and then go to top-25 soshe gets to World Cup Finals in March in Bormio, Italy...but she knowsshe has to put the hammer down from top to bottom. Sarah said, 'That'sit. From now on, I'm going all out, all the way.'

"She's skiing, though, like Forysth did last year, picking uppoints to get into the top 30 and let it go...but she knows she can dobetter. See, they're about the same age the Canadian is about fourmonths older but Forsyth's really a year ahead because 'Schlep' lostlast year with a broken leg in December 1998 ... Sarah knows she's soclose to the top 20. Three or four tenths of a second can mean six orseven places; she knows she can do it."

The snowstorm swept the course as Schelper skied her second run andmade things miserable for the last 25 skiers. "This was a tough hill forKristina; she'd have had to ski a flawless run and that wasn't possible.She's not experienced enough in GS but she's getting it."

Swedish great Pernilla Wiberg is skipping Lienz followingarthroscopic knee surgery last week after dinging an oft-injured knee inSt. Moritz, Switzerland, before Christmas. She's expected to resumeracing - but may skip slaloms because of the pain they mean - inMaribor, Slovenia next week.

The women race slalom Wednesday in Lienz and then take a breakthrough New Year's before resuming Jan. 5-6 in Maribor. Schleper andKoznick will be joined in the slalom by Tasha Nelson (Mound, MN) andCaroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO), who missed the Lienz stopbecause of a heavy cold but is expected to rejoin the team in Maribor.