Soelden, Austria, Oct. 28, 2000--German Martina Ertl, a distant 17th after the first run, set a blistering second run pace to win the opening FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom Saturday on the glacier above Soelden. Norwegian Andrine Flemmen, 19th in the first run, was second with Anja Paerson of Sweden third.
Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN) was the only U.S. finisher in 26th. Historically, the U.S. women have not had great success in the early-season opener and Saturday was no exception. While Koznick did barely crack the top 30 to earn a second run, the three U.S. Ski Team racers missed the cut. Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO), starting 28th, finished 40th; Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO) started 43rd and wound up 46th; and Alex Shaffer (Park City, UT), in her first race back since a knee injury last season started 52nd and finished 51st.
It was a lot like last year -- we just didn't ski well," said a disappointed U.S. Ski Team Head Women's Coach Marjan Cernigoj. "We just did not show up. We trained well but we didn't race well. Mentally we have a lot of progress to make."
From a pure ski racing perspective, it was one of the most exciting World Cup races in history. Under sunny skies and with a crowd of around10,000 Austrian ski fans, Ertl, Flemmen and a pack of slower first run skiers charged into the lead and watched as skier after skier could not match their times.
"You couldn't ask for a better opener from a sport perspective," said International Ski Federation Secretary General Sarah Lewis. "It's an exciting race and tremendous images of our sport."
There was surprisingly little for the hometown Austrian fans to cheer for. Only a fifth from Brigitte Obermoser and a tie for seventh withMichaela Dorfmeister, last year's World Cup GS champion, brightened the Austrian day.
Sweden's Anna Ottosson led the first run, with Paerson just two-hundreths back. Liechtenstein's Birgit Heeb was third. Ottosson dropped to sixth, while Heeb crashed on the second run.
A disappointed U.S. Ski Team packed for home, where they will get a weeklong break after a month training on glaciers in Austria. They will be back on snow the first weekend in November in Colorado, preparing for the opening of the Chevy Truck Super Series Nov. 11-12 at Loveland, Colo. The FIS Alpine World Cup will continue Nov. 16-19 with the Chevy Truck America's Opening at Park City Mountain Resort, before heading to Aspen, Colo. Thanksgiving Weekend for the Chevy Truck Aspen Winternational World Cup.