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Aspen: Rienda Contreras powers to victory in Aspen GS

Aspen: Rienda Contreras powers to victory in Aspen GSASPEN, Colorado — Maria Jose Rienda Contreras had every reason to throttle back, ski to finish and notch a World Cup podium in the Sirius Satellite Radio Aspen Winternational GS in Aspen, Colorado Saturday. Instead, she charged.

As Rienda Contreras, the leader after the first run, waited at the start of the second run in Aspen, the sun dipped behind a ridge, temperatures dropped and serious chop formed in the line. Racer after racer had failed to topple the early second-run skiers.

A lengthy course hold took place when German Maria Riesch, who had fallen on her side, slid through a panel and was twisted awkwardly when her ski dug into the snow. (Riesch was taken down on a sled and early reports indicated torn left knee ligaments and meniscus damage.) Directly in front of Rienda Contreras, Austrian Nicole Hosp, second first run, also went down.

None of it fazed the Spaniard.

A nine-year veteran of the World Cup, Rienda Contreras kicked out of the start with a 0.62 lead on then-leader Anja Paerson and attacked the tight and difficult course with precision. While some of her first-run cushion had disappeared by the time she was skidding to a stop in the finish, she had earned her third career victory. “Tension is so high when you’re first in the first round,” Rienda Contreras explained with a smile. “It’s better to stay calm.”

Rienda Contreras is the very definition of late bloomer – she scored her first two career victories last year, at the age of 29 – but appears to be the prime of her career. The GS specialist was second in the season standings last season, and has her sites set on glory for Spain in Torino next February. “We continue to work towards the Olympic games, and to do the best [we can],” she said.

After an upset win from Swiss skier Nadia Styger in Friday’s super G, the big guns of the women’s World Cup tour were back on top Saturday. The biggest of them all, Sweden’s Paerson – last year’s overall World Cup champion – was sitting in fifth after the first run, but ripped a second run. She finished second that run, and earning her way back onto the podium in second. After a disappointing weekend in Lake Louise resulted in zero World Cup points a week ago, this finish was what the doctor ordered for Paerson.

“Coming into this week was pretty hard for me,” she said. “Lake Louise was a tough event. I lost all my confidence in my skis. … I was very exhausted. [I had to] try to find some new energy for this hill, and forget Lake Louise and that snow. I don’t like that snow.”

The grippy snow, rolling terrain changes, banked turns and quick, technical sets on Ruthie’s Run were much better fits for Paerson’s style, as indicated by her two second-place finishes in Aspen a year ago.

“This hill is very technical,” she said. “It has short arcs, and you have to go for the gate more than normal. … I was taking a lot of risks coming down the course, and I’m very happy to come in second.”

Nineteen-year-old Austrian Kathrin Zettel finished just behind Paerson, but it was enough for her first career World Cup podium. (She barely missed in the Soelden opener, finishing fourth.) Along with super G podium finisher Andrea Fischbacher, Zettel is showing the Austrian team will be in good hands when the old guard, led by Michaela Dorfmeister (fifth today, her best GS finish since 2004), Renate Goetschl and Alexandra Meissnitzer, retire.

It was a tough morning for U.S. skiers, as only Julia Mancuso and Kristina Koznick qualified for the second run. Mancuso was the top American, in 12th, and Koznick ended up 24th.

Both Mancuso and Koznick said they were training fast GS, but were disappointed their race results didn’t match their practice runs. “I’m training really well, but it’s just a matter of getting that onto the race course,” Mancuso said.

“I just need to take what’s happening in training and make it happen in the race,” echoed Koznick. “It sounds so simple, but it’s a lot harder. I wish I could explain it.”

Koznick’s fellow independent American, Kristen Mielke, narrowly missed qualifying for her first World Cup second run. She finished 31st first run, 0.05 behind Emily Bryon of Canada.

Lost among the duel for first was an impressive display of depth from the Canadian team. Brydon took full advantage of that 30th-place finish in the first run — she won the second run and moved all the way up to 13th. “Starting first I was thinking that I wanted it to be memorable because you never know when you’ll be in that spot again,” said Brydon.

Brydon’s teammate Allison Forsyth, 15th first run, nipped her to finish 11th. Gen Simard and Brigitte Acton stacked into 17th and 18th, giving the Canadians four finishers in the top 18.

“It’s a solid performance,” said head Canadian women’s coach Hugues Ansermoz. “We were disappointed not to have someone in the top 10. … But it was good progress the second run, [they] all were attacking. It’s an exciting day for sure.”

While the finishes are a solid building block for Team Maple Leaf, Ansermoz expects more. “We need to be competing for podiums this year in GS,” he said. “That was a goal in the beginning of the year. …. We need to be competing for top 5s and podiums, every time being in contention.”

American Jess Kelley was 35th, Lauren Ross 36th and Libby Ludlow 40th. Lindsey Kildow went out of the course near the finish, but returned to the course to finish (last). Kaylin Richardson and Kirsten Clark did not finish.

Women’s Giant Slalom
Aspen, Colo.,
Dec. 10, 2005

1. Maria Jose Rienda Contreras, SPA 1:57.17
2. Anja Paerson, SWE 1:57.51
3. Kathrin Zettel, AUT 1:57.53
4. Janica Kostelic, CRO 1:57.85
5. Michaela Dorfmeister, AUT 1:57.87
6. Tanja Poutiainen, FIN 1:58.04
7. Elisabeth Goergl, AUT 1:58.15
8. Tina Maze, SLO 1:58.41
9. Michaela Kirchgasser, AUT 1:58.59
10. Andrea Fischbacher, AUT 1:58.85
11. Allison Forsyth, CAN 1:59.01
12. Julia Mancuso, USA 1:59.22
13. Emily Brydon, CAN 1:59.41
14. Maria Pietilae, SWE 1:59.64
15. Ana Drev, SLO 1:59.66
16. Ingrid Jacquemod, FRA 1:59.70
17. Genevieve Simard, CAN 1:59.98
18. Brigitte Acton, CAN 2:00.14
19. Eveline Rohregger, AUT 2:00.20
20. Martina Ertl-Renz, GER 2:00.23
21. Annemarie Gerg, GER 2:00.27
22. Sonja Nef, SUI 2:00.42
23. Daniela Merighetti, ITA 2:00.50
24. Kristina Koznick, USA 2:00.52
25. Anna Ottosson, SWE 2:00.53
26. Fraenzi Aufdenblatten, SUI 2:00.62
27. Nadia Fanchini, ITA 2:00.65
Other North Americans:
DNQ 2nd: Kristen Mielke, Jessica Kelley, Lauren Ross, Libby Ludlow, Lindsey Kildow, USA; Britt Janyk, CAN.
DNF 1st: Kaylin Richardson, Stacey Cook, Kirsten Clark USA;

By Hank McKee

Women’s GS, Aspen, Colo., Dec. 10, 2005

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1. Rienda, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
2. Paerson, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
3. Zettel, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
4. Kostelic, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
5. Dorfmeister, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
6. Poutiainen, Volkl/Tecnica/Marker
7. Goergl, Blizzard/Lange/Marker
8. Maze, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
9. Kirchgasser, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
10. Fischbacher, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic

Women’s Giant Slalom, Aspen, Colo., Dec. 10, 2005. … It is the sixth race of the women’s 34 race, two combined World Cup schedule. … It is the second of nine scheduled Giant Slaloms. … It is the second of a three-race set
at Aspen.

It is the third career win for Maria Jose Rienda Contreras, all of them since Feb. 20 2005 and all in GS. … Her first World Cup score came in January of 1995. … She is married, 30, from Granada. … She is one win shy of the Spanish record of four held by Blanca Fernandez-Ochoa.

It is the 57th career podium for Anja Paerson. … It is the third time she has been second at an Aspen race including GS Dec. 26 and SL Dec. 27, 2004. Also won in SL in 2002. … She has been overall World Cup champion in each of the last two seasons. … She was third in the opening GS at Soelden Oct. 22, 2005. … She is 24 and lives in Monaco.

It is the first career World Cup podium for Kathrin Zettel. … She is 19, from Goestling. … Her two best results have come this season, the first a fourth place result in GS at Soelden Oct. 22, 2005.

Eleventh matches the 25th-best career result for Canadian Allison Forsyth. … It is her best result, by one placing, of the season, the other coming in the Solden GS. … It is the sixth-best GS result for Julia Mancuso. … She has scored in five of the six races held this season. … It is the third career scoring result in GS for Emily Brydon, who has 54 scoring finishes total. … It is her second scoring finish of the season. … It is the fourth scoring result of the season for Genevieve Simard. … Her best score of the season came in the SG Dec. 9 (6th). … Eighteenth matches the second-best career finish for Brigitte Acton. … The best a 10th in combined at San Sicario Feb. 27, 2005. … It is the 37th career score in GS for Kristina Koznick.

Michaela Dorfmeister (fifth in race) maintains the overall World Cup point lead 334-260 over Alexandra Meissnitzer (did not race). … Andrea Fischbacher (10th) and Lindsey Kildow (did not qualify for a second run) are tied in third at 221 points. … Anja Paerson and Maria Jose Rienca are tied at top of the GS standings with 140 points each. … Tina Maze (8th in race) is third at 132. … Julia Mancuso (12th in race) is the top American in 16th place with 32 points. … Genevieve Simard (17th in race) is the top North American in 12th with 43 points. … Winning margin is .34 of a second. … Top seven skiers are within the same second. … Top 11 within two seconds.

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