Copper Mountain, Colo. Nov.22, 2001 (USSA)–Laure Pequegnot, spurred by thememory of her late teammate, Regine Cavagnoud — “who would not quit,”overcame a snow squall and mid-race troubles Thursday to collect anemotional first World Cup win of her career in the slalom concluding theChevy Truck Women’s World Challenge. Kristina Koznick (Burnsville, MN)was the lone American to score points, finishing tied for fifth.
ESPN will televise coverage of the race and Wednesday’s giant slalom atCopper Mountain in back-to-back, one-hour shows beginning at 5 p.m. ESTSunday.
Pequegnot led the first run of the season’s first slalom by .25 overSonja Nef of Switzerland and, after Nef — the World Cup points leader– fell on her second run, the Frenchwoman went on to victory in1:37.64. Austrians Christine Sponring (1:37.81) and Carina Raich(1:38.72) finished second and third, respectively, in the field of 68.
Cavagnoud, the reigning world and World Cup champion, died three weeksago following a training crash in Pitztal, Austria. Many of the womenracers, not just the French, wore black armbands in tribute to herduring the two days of racing at Copper.
The winner said she almost lost it midway through the final run when aslalom pole slammed into her head, knocking her helmet and gogglesaskew. She took two gates to readjust them before skiing moreaggressively on the bottom half of the hill.
Cavagnoud “never quit. It is a very good example…”
“I thought a lot about Regine Cavagnoud on the second run. You can’tstop. You have to compete like Regine,” Pequegnot told a post-race pressconference. “I know Regine always competed. She never quit. It is a verygood example for us.”
Addressing the obvious issue of trying to focus on ski racing whilegrieving for their teammate, Pequegnot said the French use Cavagnoud’sabsence as motivation for success to honor their ex-teammate. “I thinkRegine wouldn’t like that we cry all the time,” she said.
The snow that started at dawn dropped throughout most of the first runand resumed at the start of the second on Copper’s Copperopolis trail,high on the mountain.
Koznick and Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) were the only skiers among theU.S. six-racer contingent to make the top-30 cut after the first run.Caroline Lalive (Steamboat Springs, CO) took a nasty smack across herface from a slalom pole before finally skiing off-course three gatesfrom the finish.
In the second run, Koznick finished in a tie with Bergmann at 1:39.10while Schleper, carrying too much speed, missed a gate on the finalpitch, about 10 gates from the finish.
“That’s the worst I’ve skied in years,” Koznick said. “I couldn’t get ahandle on the snow. It was grippy and I thought after the first run, myedges were too sharp, so I had John Mulligan, her waxer bring itdown…and that didn’t help. You had to be light on your feet, as thepodium showed. Those girls skied well, but they’re also light and thathelped.
Cernigoj: U.S. skiers blew an opportunity
“Still, to ski this badly and finish sixth is all right. I must’ve donesome things right.”
U.S. Head Coach Marjan Cernigoj chose his words carefully, but didn’tmask his disappointment. “I don’t know what to say. I’m not discouraged,just frustrated. Nobody skied up to their ability. Nobody took advantageof the opportunity. The course was excellent,” he said. “Now we’llregroup.”
U.S. women speed racers will be at Lake Louise in the Canadian Rockiesnext week for the first two downhills of the season plus a super G Nov.29-Dec. 1.