Soelden, Austria, Oct. 29, 2000--Hermann Maier stole the show for the hometown fans, leading a one-two Austrian finish in the opening FIS Alpine World Cup giant slalom Sunday in Soelden. Casey Puckett (Aspen, CO) led an encouraging day for the U.S. Ski Team, finishing 22nd -- his first complete World Cup GS since Jan. of 1999.
Maier led the first run with near flawless skiing and carried that lead into a victory in 2:16.89 under sunny skies on the Rettenbacher Glacier, starting at over 10,000 feet above sea level high above Soelden. His win came with more than a second to spare over teammate Stephan Eberharter, with a very strong Fredrik Nyberg of Sweden third.
It was a very encouraging day for the U.S. Ski Team, despite only two of six starters finishing. Puckett, 24th after the first run, moved up to finish 22nd. It was his first giant slalom second run on the World Cup since the Adelboden, Switzerland race in Jan. of 1999.
"This was a very big finish for me," said a smiling Puckett. "It's my first second run in almost two years and it gives me a World Cup starting spot. I've been over here training for a month, now, and this will make the trip home much more enjoyable."
Puckett's finish unofficially gives the U.S. Ski Team eight World Cup spots in GS, one of the most of any nation. And on balance, while only three Americans qualified for the second run, every racer skiied aggressively and with confidence.
Dane Spencer (Boise, ID) also picked up a finish, taking 26th. Bode Miller (Franconia, NH) was 15th after the second run, but crashed hard on the second run after posting an outstanding split time.
"My first run wasn't very good, but I still finished 15th," said Miller, who switched to Fischer skis this summer. "And I'm really hurting right now -- especially my jawbone -- but I know I was skiing well in my second run, I just went too direct at a gate."
Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) had matched Miller on the intermediate time on the first run before going off course. Thomas Vonn(Newburgh, NY) just missed the top-30 cut at 31st, while Chip Knight (New Canaan, CT) was 36th.
Well over 10,000 spectators jammed the course and the finish area on the Rettenbach Glacier, the highest point on this year's World Cup circuit. After a disappointing day Saturday when the Austrian women missed the podium, the hometown team took five of the top-10 places. International Ski Federation officials were elated with the event, which presented ski fans across Europe with two days of live television coverage of the sport at its finest.
The races will be aired in the USA on the Outdoor Life Network Nov. 17-18.