Heavy Snow Postpones Men's Skiing

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VAL D'ISERE, France (AP by Erica Bulman) Dec. 13--A men's World Cup giant slalom was postponed Sunday when heavy snowfall reduced visibility and made skiing dangerous.

Organizers had decided to start the first leg on time, hoping conditions would improve. But thick sheets of snow descended on the renowned Oreiller-Killy course.

``After 300 meters your goggles were just covered with water,'' said Austrian Christian Mayer, who was leading before the race was called off. ``If you wiped it with the back of your sleeve it was even worse.

``Of course, it was the same for everyone, but it was still pretty bad.''

The postponement marked a complete wipeout for the men at this important stop on the World Cup circuit. Heavy snowfall and fog scrapped a downhill Saturday _ the fourth downhill in eight years called off at this French resort.

The men's giant slalom will be rerun in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia on Dec. 22. The downhill was rescheduled for Val Gardena, Italy, this week.

Switzerland's Didier Cuche, 18th down the course, ripped off his goggles midway down the run. He was forced to abandon the race moments later, blinded by snow.

The race was suspended after 22 racers.

``It was probably the right decision but it surprised me,'' said reigning World Cup giant slalom champion Michael Von Gruenigen, who was second after the opening leg. ``Once they made us start I thought we would finish it.

``But I think the visibility and course deteriorated so much after 15 racers that it was a wise decision.''

Mayer, still winless this season, led with a time of 1 minute, 18.47 seconds. Von Gruenigen of Switzerland was .04 seconds behind and followed by four more Austrians: Benjamin Raich, Andreas Schifferer, Heinz Schilchegger and Stefan Eberharter.

The postponement probably was good news for the most prominent Austrian skier. Hermann Maier, the double Olympic and world champion, has won five of his six races this season _ two giant slaloms, a downhill and two super-G's.

On Sunday, he was in seventh place, more than a half second behind when the race was stopped. Maier finished first in this race in 1997 but was disqualified for removing a ski too soon after crossing the finish.

Copyright (c) 1999 The Associated Press