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Spindleruv Mlyn: Janica Kostelic wins her first World Cup GS; Julia Mancuso 14th

Spindleruv Mlyn: Janica Kostelic wins her first World Cup GS; Julia Mancuso 14thJanica Kostelic of Croatia won the first World Cup giant slalom of her career on Wednesday, beating out the Austrian duo of Kathrin Zettel and Marlies Schild in tough conditions at Spindleruv Mlyn in the Czech Republic.

‘This is probably one of the happiest moments in my career’ said Kostelic, who has had 11 surgeries on her knees. ‘I was waiting for this since I started skiing World Cup. I won slalom and Olympic GS, but I don’t think only one win counts.’

Today’s GS and Thursday’s slalom are the first alpine World Cup races ever held in the Czech Republic, although races were scheduled two years ago but canceled due to poor snowcover. The resort has held World Cup freestyle competitions, as well as Europa Cup alpine races.

Kostelic won in 2 minutes, 21.30 seconds. Zettel was runner-up, 0.08 seconds behind, and Schild third, another two-hundredths behind Zettel

The top American in the race was Julia Mancuso, who was 14th despite having problems with her boots. Kristina Koznick was in fourth place after the first run, and was leading at the interval timing just before she made a big mistake before entering a long flat section. She was bumped back to 16th.

‘It was definitely my best first run I’ve ever had in GS’ said Koznick, who feels confident that things are ‘clicking’ in the discipline. ‘Usually I do the opposite.’

On the first run, Kirsten Clark failed to finish, and the rest of the Americans failed to make the top-30 cutoff to qualify for the second run. They were Lindsey Kildow, Kristin Mielke, Jess Kelley, Resi Stiegler, Lauren Ross, Libby Ludlow and Caroline Lalive.

It was Stiegler’s first World Cup race of the season. The 2005 Sprint/Ski Racing Junior of the Year, she has been sitting out much of the fall with a complicated shin and ankle injury.

Kelley just barely missed the top-30 cutoff for the race. The racer wearing bib No. 66 bumped her back to 31st, and out of the group that qualifies for second runs in World Cup races.

‘There were certain people we kept waiting for’ said Kelley, who agreed that the Czech countryside was reminiscent of her native rural Vermont. ‘I finally thought I was OK, and then the Czech girl came down. So, yeah, that’s pretty frustrating. … It was bad because once I let myself believe, the next girl came down and beat me.’

While the women were racing in Czech, the men were running the same discipline in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, where Benni Raich of Austria was the winner.

More than a meter of fresh snow fell on the mountain in the days leading up to the Spindleruv Mlyn race, and the night before the race, organizers were still using snowcats to push huge piles of the stuff off to the side of the race hill.

Racers said the snow surface was variable, going from icy to soft and ‘chunky’ on every turn. The footing was so unpredictable that Mancuso – no stranger to powder snow – caught her edge while coming to a stop, crashing in the middle of the finish area on the first run.

Spindleruv Mlyn is two to three hours northwest of Prague. Click here for the mountain’s official Web site, which includes live cams of the race hill under the ‘actual info’ tab.

The mountain has tried to hold races before, which were canceled. Click here for more about the race hill.

The mountain’s course, on the Cerna run, was about 1 minute, 11 seconds long, and a straight shot from top to bottom. It is steep and shady most of the way, but there is one short flat section in the last quarter of the race. This is where Koznick blew her chances.

‘I knew I was skiing well in Aspen’ said Koznick. ‘We watched tapes, and I wasn’t driving my knees. I was skiing so passive. I only had one day of GS training between now and then, and I started driving my knees. Everything clicked back to the way I’ve been training. I’ve been training just as fast as Paerson and everyone.’

A rare chance to race at home
The Czech Republic is no World Cup powerhouse, but the country’s slalom star, Sarka Zahrobska, did win a surprise World Championships slalom medal last year, while Filip Trejbal won the slalom at the World Junior Championships.

Zahrobska, whose name is pronounced ‘Sharka’ was the local favorite for the race. Zahrobska was born just 25 kilometers from Spindleruv Mlyn, trains there often and has competed often on the Spindler’s race hill. She started 32nd in the race and managed to pop into the second run with the 25th-fastest second run. She finished 28 at the end of the day.

But the real thrill to Czech fans came when Eva Kurfuerstova, wearing bib 66th, came down with inspired aggression and finished 29th on the first run, qualifying for the second run for the first time in her 10-year World Cup career. She ran second in that run, and finished 29th on the day.

‘It’s good for people to see that we have big mountains and lots of snow, and we can make the World Cup here’ said Zahrobska. ‘I was a little afraid that the weather was too bad and the race would be canceled, so I was very glad that everything was OK.’

What to watch for on the World Cup
Action continues tomorrow with a slalom on the lower part of the Cerna slope, while the World Cup men – who raced GS today in Slovenia continue with a slalom there. Following those two races, the World Cup’s racers take a well-earned break for the Christmas holiday, before racing resumes in the middle of next week in Bormio, Italy, (men’s downhill) and Lienz, Austria, (women’s GS and slalom).

Women’s giant slalom
Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic
Dec. 21, 2005

1. Janica Kostelic, CRO 2:21.30
2. Kathrin Zettel, AUT 2:31.38
3. Marlies Schild, AUT 2:21.40
4. Nicole Hosp, AUT 2:21.49
5. Anja Paerson, SWE 2:21.59
6. Anna Ottosson, SWE 2:21.88
7. Michaela Dorfmeister, AUT 2:21.93
8. Ingrid Jacquemod, FRA 2:21.99
9. Maria Jose Rienda, SPA 2:22.01
10. Michaela Kirchgasser, AUT 2:22.22
11. Annemarie Gerg, GER 2:22.37
12. Alexandra Meissnitzer, AUT 2:22.43
13. Nadia Fanchini, ITA 2:22.45
14. Julia Mancuso, USA 2:22.49
15. Andrea Fischbacher, AUT 2:22.52
16. Kristina Koznick, USA 2:22.62
17. Allison Forsyth, CAN 2:22.65
18. Maria Pietilae-Holmner, SWE 2:22.66
19. Tina Maze, SLO 2:22.67
20. Manuela Moelgg, ITA 2:22.76
21. Denise Karbon, ITA 2:22.78
22. Martina Ertl-Renz, GER 2:22.90
23. Genevieve Simard, CAN 2:23.06
24. Kathrin Hoelzl, GER 2:23.07
25. Eveline Rohregger, AUT 2:23.15
26. Brigitte Acton, CAN 2:23.60
27. Sarka Zahrobska, CZE 2:23.65
28. Eva Kurfuerstova, CZE 2:23.85
29. Camilla Alfieri, ITA 2:23.95
Other North Americans:
DNF 1st: Kirsten Clark, USA.
DNQ 2nd: Lindsey Kildow, Kristen Mielke, Jessica Kelley, Resi Stiegler, Lauren Ross, Libby Ludlow, Caroline Lalive, USA; Britt Janyk, Emily Brydon, CAN.

By Hank McKee

Women’s GS, Spindleruv Mlyn, Dec. 21, 2005

Skier, skis/boots/bindings
1. Kostelic, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
2. Zettel, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
3. Schild, Atomic/Lange/Atomic
4. Hosp, Volkl/Fischer/Marker
5. Paerson, Salomon/Salomon/Salomon
6. Ottosson, Dynastar/Lange/Tyrolia
7. Dorfmeister, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic
8. Jacquemod, Salomon/Salomon/Sal
9. Rienda, Rossignol/Rossignol/Rossignol
10. Kirchgasser, Atomic/Atomic/Atomic

Women’s giant slalom, Spindleruv Mlyn, Czech Republic. … It is the first alpine World Cup held in the Czech Republic. … It is the 10th race of the women’s 34 race, two combined World Cup schedule. … It is the third of nine scheduled GS’s.

It is the 22nd career win for Janica Kostelic (tied for 24th all-time). … Her first of the season. … She also has two second-place finishes this season (Soelden GS and Aspen slalom). … It is her first career World Cup GS win, (she does own the Olympic gold medal in the discipline).

It is a career-best World Cup result for Kathrin Zettel. … She has three podiums this season, all from December (third twice at Aspen).

It is the 14th career podium for Marlies Schild. … Just the second in GS. … It is her first podium of the season. … She now has four scoring finishes this season in three different disciplines.

Julia Mancuso – in 14th – has placed in nine of the 10 races held this season. … It is the best GS result for the season for Kristina Koznick. … She has 10 better GS finishes to her career. … It is the fourth result of the season for Allison Forsyth, all of them coming in between 10th and 17th. … It is the seventh scoring result of the season for Genevieve Simard. … It is the fourth of the season for Brigitte Acton.

Michaela Dorfmeister (seventh in race) retains the lead of the World Cup overall standings 502-422 over Alexandra Meissnitzer (12th in race). … Janica Kostelic moves to third with 412. … Lindsey Kildow (did not qualify for second run) sits fourth overall at 372. … Kostelic does lead the GS standings 230-190 over Kathrin Zettel. … Anja Paerson (fifth in race) is third at 185. … Top North American on GS list is Allison Forsyth in 12th with 60 points. … Top American is Julia Mancuso 18th with 50 points. … Winning margin is eight hundredths. … All podium finishes are within a tenth. … Top 10 within a second. … Top 25 two seconds.

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