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Zagreb: Croatians go all-out for women's night slalom

Zagreb: Croatians go all-out for women’s night slalom{mosimage}ZAGREB, Croatia – On Thursday night, a women’s World Cup slalom race will take place at the Sljeme ski area outside Zagreb, Croatia. Hoping to capitalize on the massive public appeal of ski racing generated in this country by the success of Janica Kostelic and her brother Ivica, the FIS awarded Croatia its first World Cup last season.
‘Everything is 100 percent ready for a great race’ said Milan Bandic, the mayor of Zagreb, at the team captains’ meeting on Wednesday evening.
Last year, the race organizing committee drew rave reviews for its efforts. Everyone associated with the race was transported there in a massive, rolling convoy, accompanied by police officers who brought city traffic to a halt.
Croatia has a population of 4.5 million people, of which roughly 800,000 live in Zagreb, the capital. The ski resort of Sljeme is less than an hour’s drive from the city.
The race has a prize purse of 165,000 euro ($195,000 U.S.), which is the largest single-start sum in the alpine World Cup.
On Wednesday night, following the bib handover ceremony, a number of bands will perform in the main square of the city, including the Village People.
The mountain of Sljeme was hit with snow and then rain earlier this week, but temperatures are below freezing and organizers hope for a good race. ‘We were working hard until the last moment,” said Croatian alpine team manager Vedran Pavlek, conceding that the snow may be soft for the race.
‘It will not be the same conditions as last year’ he said, ‘but we will have a lot of slippers, and we have done our best.’
Kristina Koznick finished second at Zagreb last year. The American, who is training and racing independently from the U.S. Ski Team this season, has said she will almost certainly retire at the end of 2005-06.
Next year, organizers are planning to host a men’s race as well. In the provisional plan, they will hold a night slalom on Friday night, a bib draw on Saturday night for the men’s race and a men’s race on Sunday night.
Here is the top-10 start list for Thursday night’s race.
1. Sarah Schleper
2. Kristina Koznick
3. Tanja Poutiainen
4. Nicole Hosp
5. Marlies Schild
6. Anja Paerson
7. Janica Kostelic
8. Kathrin Zettel
9. Annemarie Gerg
10. Laure Pequenot

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