Women's Downhill Title Hangs on Last Two Races


SIERRA NEVADA, Spain Feb. 22, 2003 (AP Ciaran Giles)--The World Cup women's downhill title will be decided by the last two races of the season.

Organizers on Sunday called off the downhill race for the second straight day because of strong winds, scrapping the event. The first of two scheduled races, the fifth and sixth of the season, was canceled Saturday due to heavy snow.

American Kirsten Clark and France's Carole Montillet are tied for the lead in the downhill standings with 245 points, with races left at Innsbruck next week and Norway in March. Austria's Michaela Dorfmeister is third with 232 points and countrywoman Renate Goetschl has 218.

``The best four girls have just 30 points separating them, and anything can change with just two more races,'' Montillet said. ``It's going to be a good fight.''

Clark believes Sunday's cancelation favored her chances.

``I think it is a blessing in disguise, I definitely think that Innsbruck and Norway are more my style, more of a technical course. So, I'm not too sad that these are canceled, `` said the 25-year-old Clark.

Clark and Montillet agreed with the decision to call off the races at Sierra Nevada.

``The wind was really inconsistent, so some racers would have had wind and some wouldn't,'' said Clark. ``It's also a safety thing.''

Montillet said, ``It was very windy at the top and when it's dangerous it's fairer to cancel the race.''

The Sierra Nevada has a history of problems with weather. The event was scheduled for the site of the 1996 World Championships. Those championships had been scheduled for Sierra Nevada the previous year, but were called off for lack of snow.

The event was also dogged by unfavorable weather, with the first two training sessions canceled Wednesday and Thursday because of snowstorms. A planned second practice Friday was scrapped to keep the course in shape.

Janica Kostelic of Croatia, who has a 552-point lead in the World Cup overall standings, was nursing a knee injury and not scheduled to compete. Karen Putzer of Italy, second in the standings, also chose not to compete.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press