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Nef Conquers Soft Snow, Wins GS


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St. Anton, Austria Feb. 9 (USSA)–Pre-race favorite Sonja Nef, who has won five World Cup giant slaloms this season – including the lastfour, ignored soft snow to take the first run lead Friday and rolled to GS gold by 1.1 seconds. It was the final women’s race of theweather-plagued 2001 World Championships.

ESPN was to broadcast coverage of the race tonight at 8 EST with a repeat, also on ESPN, at midnight EST.

Nef, starting second on a day in which several inches of fluffy, snow fell during the night – and continued to fall slowly during therace, had the fastest first run each time and second-fastest second run to finish with a total time of 2:20.11. Karen Putzer of Italy,who skied No. 1 on the snowy day, was silver medalist in 2:20.11 with Anja Paerson of Sweden – the slalom gold medalistWednesday night – earning another medal, this one bronze, in 2:20.52.

Nef’s win made it double GS gold for Switzerland, following Michael VonGruenigen’s giant slalom triumph Thursday.

The second run was delayed about 50 minutes while course workers further prepared the course, moving snow. About four inches ofsnow fell before the race and light snow continued intermittently through the day.

Koznick, skiing 17th in the first run, finished in 1:13.59 – .19 out of 15th and the No. 1 start in the second run. She finished in2:24.83 while Clark was 20th with a time of 2:26.72.

Koznick was waiting at the start after Nef’s gold-medal second run and tried to block-out the distraction.

“I was in the start,” Koznick said, “and I heard Sonja had won and I thought, ‘Okay, she’s just gone down this same course and shehammered it’ and I tried to keep my focus…”

“It was a rough course,” she said.

Clark, who found a well-rutted road when she started 42nd in the first run, moved up from 26th on her second run.

Schleper, who fell Wednesday night in slalom, started 22nd and was only .4 off Nef’s lead when she fell about a dozen gates from thefinish. “It was a stupid mistake – leaning in – and I shouldn’t have made it,” she said.

She said her coaches had warned her about the soft snow and big ruts “and that I was gonna feel crappy, but keep punching it, so Idid. And they noticed some of the girls were getting tired at the bottom, so I should be ready and keep going…and that’s where Ileaned in.”

Women’s SL/GS Head Coach Georg Capaul said he was disappointed that his women didn’t win a medal “but this is part of the learningcurve. I always say it’s like a 10-story building and you go up level by level. We’ve dropped back a level, for sure, but these girls arecoming back…and they’ll go to an even higher level by the end of the year…

“This will make them better next year. A year ago, we were in the start and we were thinking, ‘I hope I qualify’ – and now we’rethinking podium every time. This is another lesson and it will make them tougher for Salt Lake City next year” at the Olympics,Capaul said.