HAFJELL, Norway (March 16) - On a day where the weather mirrored the mood of weary World Cup racers, the U.S. Ski Team clinched third place in the Nations Cup standings Sunday for the first time since 1983; the men finished third and the women were fourth while Italians won both races. Giorgio Rocca won the men's slalom and Karen Putzer took the final women's GS.
Outdoor Life Network will broadcast same-day coverage of the last day of World Cup racing today at 5 p.m. EST and its final World Cup highlights show is Thursday night at 7 EST with a repeat at 10 EST.
Under overcast skies with the temperature in the low 30s, Rocca won the SL in 1:45.44 and Finn Kalle Palander captured the World Cup title, the first Finn to earn an alpine World Cup crown, by finishing second (1:45.85) as he knocked Daron Rahlves (Sugar Bowl, CA), second in DH points, out of the first five overall; it was the first time the U.S. team has had two men in the top 10 since 1982 when Phil Mahre was first and twin Steve was third.
SCHLOPY SAVED NATIONS CUP 3RD FOR U.S. MEN
Erik Schlopy (Park City, UT) preserved third place in the Nations Cup for the Ski Team by two points as he tied for ninth place with Norwegian Truls Ove Karlsen in 1:47.22; any lower and Norway - getting 50 points from Tom Stiansen in fourth place, could have caught or overtaken the U.S. men.
At World Cup Finals, with its smaller field of racers, points are awarded only to the top 15. Chip Knight (Stowe, VT) had problems at the bottom of his second run and finished 16th with Bode Miller (Franconia, NH), who had three slalom wins a year ago but struggled all winter with SL, was 17th. Finishing third was the top men's result since 1982 when the men also were third.
"It's been such an emotional rollercoaster with our success," said Men's Head Coach Phil McNichol "We've been in Europe for so long, we had to be leading up to Worlds (Feb. 2-16 in St. Moritz, Switzerland) and everybody's pretty spent. We torched ourselves...but we were successful and we met our goals, so it paid off.
"It's been a great year but there's still room for improvement, which is encouraging. These guys can do it," McNichol said.
Schlopy added, "It's been a little of a drag at the end, energy-wise, but in general the season's been awesome. "I'm ready to go to nationals (starting Thursday in Lake Placid, NY), have some fun, wind it down and hang out without any real stress for a few days."
The ninth-place finish equaled his best SL of the season (Wengen in January).
MILLER, A CHILD AMONG OLDTIMERS?
Miller, who finished second overall (coincidentally, with the same total as Putzer - 1,100 points) and second in GS, was called onto the podium during awards presentations. As he walked up with Austrian champ Stephan Eberharter (33) and Norwegian Kjetil Andre Aamodt (31), the 25-year-old looked in mock surprise and asked, "What gives here? I've got to go up with the grandpas, the senior citizens?"
Later, Miller - the only World Cup racerm ale or female, to ski in every race this season - said, "Today was fun. I wouldn't mind a few more races. I'm sort of tired of doing interviews, but I was a little tired of that at the beginning of the season, too, so..."
He made mistakes on the first run that kept him out of challenging and missed a gate and had to hike at the bottom of his final run of the season. Still, he enjoyed the day, Miller said, watching Palander win the title. "There was some good skiing and it was fun to watch, and we held off Norway for third place, so that was nice," he said.
Putzer led the first run and won by more than a second with a time of 2:27.55, but Sweden's Anja Paerson was fifth and claimed the women's GS title by one point over the Italian. Sarah Schleper (Vail, CO) had the fourth-fastest second run and finished seventh in 2:29.70, her best GS result of the winter, with Kirsten Clark (Raymond, ME) finishing 14th in 2:31.07 as she stayed in the top 10 for the season, thee best U.S. women's showing since Picabo Street was sixth in 1996 in winning her second consecutive downhill title.
Schleper liked the hard snow. She also changed her recent game plan. "The first run I didn't try to ski out of myself; I've been doing that and going out," she explained, "so I didn't want to risk everything, and I did that on the second run, too. It's probably not the best approach but it worked for today. I'm glad the season's over. It's been tough to get motivated these last days."
U.S. skiers head next to Lake Placid, NY, for the Chevy Truck U.S. Alpine Championships, which open Thursday with downhills at Whiteface Mountain, the 1980 Olympic alpine venue.
FIS ALPINE WORLD CUP
World Cup Finals
Hafjell, NOR - March 16
1. Giorgio Rocca, Italy, 1:45.44
2. Kalle Palander, Finland, 1:45.85
3. Manfred Pranger, Austria, 1:45.98
4. Tom Stiansesn, Norway, 1:46.20
5. Rainer Schoenfelder, Austria, 1:46.28
9T. Erik Schlopy, Park City, UT, 1:47.22
16. Chip Knight, Stowe, VT, 1:48.52
17. Bode Miller, Franconia, NH, 1:53.98
1. Karen Putzer, Italy, 2:27.55
2. Denise Karbon, Italy, 2:28.58
3. Nicole Hosp, Austria, 2:28.88
4. Martina Ertl, Germany, 2:28.95
5. Anja Paerson, Sweden, 2:29.32
7. Sarah Schleper, Vail, CO, 2:29.70
14. Kirsten Clark, Raymond, ME, 2:31.07
WORLD CUP STANDINGS
Men's Overall (Final - 37 races)
1. Stephan Eberharter, Austria - 1,333 points
2. Miller - 1,100
3. Kjetil Andre Aamodt, Norway, 940
4. Palander, 718
5. Didier Cuche, Switzerland, 709
6. Daron Rahlves, Sugar Bowl, CA, 647
29. Schlopy, 297
55. Marco Sullivan, Squaw Valley, CA, 136
58. Chip Knight, Stowe, VT, 130
74T. Tom Rothrock, Cashmere, WA, 71
76. Jake Fiala, Frisco, CO, 70
101 Scott Macartney, Redmond, WA, 32
111T. Thomas Vonn, Newburgh, NY, 24
132T. Dane Spencer, Boise, ID, 9
Men's Slalom (Final - 10 races)
1. Palander, 658
2. Ivica Kostelic, Croatia, 580
3. Rainer Schoenfelder, Austria, 473
4. Rocca, 438
5. Pranger, 385
17. Miller, 144
19. Knight, 130
20. Schlopy, 125
29T. Rothrock, 71
Women's Overall (Final - 33 races)
1. Janica Kostelic, Croatia - 1,570 points
2. Putzer - 1,100
3. Paerson - 1,042
4. Michaela Dorfmeister, Austria, 972
5. Ertl, 922
9. Clark, 661
22. Schleper, 326
23. Caroline Lalive, Steamboat Springs, CO, 325
27. Kristina Koznick, Burnsville, MN, 269
46. Julia Mancuso, Olympic Valley, CA, 159
66. Libby Ludlow, Bellevue, WA, 64
83T. Katie Monahan, Aspen, CO, 39
92T, Resi Stiegler, Jackson Hole, WY, 24
106T. Alison Powers, Winter Park, CO, 8
110T. Bryna McCarty, Concord, VT, 6
118T. Lindsey C. Kildow, Vail, CO, 3
Women's GS (Finals - 9 races)
1. Paerson, 514
2. Putzer, 513
3. Kostelic, 343
4. Hosp, 332
5. Sonja Nef, Switzerland, 329
21. Schleper, 140
25. Clark, 75
26. Lalive, 67
30T. Koznick, 57
33T. Jonna Mendes, Heavenly, CA, 2
NATIONS CUP (Final)
1. AUT - 14,373 points
2. SUI - 5,589
3. USA - 4,707
4. ITA - 4,629
5. FRA - 4,138
1. AUT - 9,041
2. SUI - 3,702
3. USA - 2,516
4. NOR - 2,514
5. FRA - 2,116
1. AUT - 5,332
2. ITA - 2,817
3. GER - 2,262
4. USA - 2,191
5. FRA - 2,022