Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy
January 22-24, 1999
After a series of very disappointing results here in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Austria's Alexandra Meissnitzer was able to fight back to the top in her best event: giant slalom.
The overall World Cup leader beat some of the best GS specialists from the past year on the demanding "Olympia delle Tofane" course to win the race by a 63/100 of a second margin over Germany's Martina Ertl, who won here in 1998. Austria's Anita Wachter, unbeaten here three years in a row from 1994 to 1996, was 3rd at 82/100. Wachter, the 1993 overall World Cup winner, tore knee ligaments last year after a terribel crash in a super-G on the same hill.
With her sixth win this season, Alexandra Meissnitzer is almost sure to clinch the GS World Cup title. With three more races to go until the finals at Sierra Nevada and a 164 point lead over her teammate Anita Wachter, odds are that she's got it in the bag. And as Hilde Gerg didn't qualify for the second run, Meissnitzer also reinforced her position in the overall standings. She leads now with 355 points over Gerg and 386 on Martina Ertl (GER), who is still fighting for her first win this season.
"This is for sure the most important success this season because I went through a tough time in the past weeks," she said. "I put too much pressure on myself during the last days and this made me ski badly," she said. "I changed my attitude for this competition. I tried to have more fun and to be more relaxed. It worked out perfectly. Now I will be more relaxed at Vail."
France's Regine Cavagnoud finished her outstanding weekend in 4th place, her best in that event since her 9th place at Sölden in October. She beat established talent including Birgit Heeb from Liechtenstein, Spela Pretnar from Slovenia and Sonja Nef from Switzerland. Caroline Lalive was the best US skier in 24th position.
Janica Kostelic from Croatia finished 8th in front of Norway's Andrine Flemmen, the winner at Sölden. While Sweden's Anja Paerson reached 12th place her teammate Pernilla Wiberg finished 14th, almost three seconds from the winner. Italy's Deborah Compagnoni missed a gate in the first run after a strong start. Compagnoni will compete at the World Championships without having won a race on the World Cup circuit, as she did in 1996, but she still remains confident.
"It took great risks to win this race and I made a mistake before the traverse," Compagnoni said. "I tried too hard but I have a good feeling. I know that I can improve a lot in the next two weeks."
Ertl was satisfied by her sixth 2nd place of the season. "I had pain in- my back after my crash in the super-G on Saturday and I had to take some pain-killers before to start," she said. "I wanted a good result on this demanding hill before flying to the US. It's a long time that I haven't been on the podium in GS so it's a very encouraging result for me. At Vail I will ski in all events and I hope to win a medal somewhere. I have a nice collection of silver and bronze medals but you need to be lucky too to win gold!"
The next World Cup races are in Are, Sweden in three weeks where a downhill, two giant slaloms and a slalom are scheduled.
Mountain Zone European Correspondent
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