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Lake Louise, Alberta
Women's Downhill (2) and Super-G
Race Preview: Haeusl and Cavagnoud Favored After Training
Germany’s Regina Haeusl and France’s Regine Cavagnoud, the most consistent skiers during the Tuesday's and Wednesday's practice runs on the challenging downhill course at Lake Louise, Alberta, are favored to win the season's first downhill races.
Haeusl, who turns 25 in three weeks, clocked the fastest time in the first training run and placed third the next day, while Cavagnoud was second and first during these two days.
Cavagnoud, a 28-year-old speed specialist, claimed good results in the first two giant slaloms of the season, but has never won a major race in her career. She was seventh at the last Olympics at Nagano, and placed twice on the podium in a downhill and a super-G in 1993.
Due to lack of snow, the training run could not be skied from the start and thus took place on a shorter version of the downhill course. Fortunately, the conditions improved when it snowed during the last few days, but the course will not be as challenging as usual, which should help smooth gliders such as Cavagnoud who will start 7th.
Haeusl, who will start 3rd, placed 4th in the Olympic super-G in Japan. She also won the demanding downhill in Cortina d’Ampezzo in 1993 and placed 2ndd in the Super-G there. Haeusl is currently the best downhiller on the German women's team in the absence of her teammate Katja Seizinger, last year’s World Cup overall champion (Seizinger celebrated a total of six victories in downhill and super-G races in Lake Louise during past seasons and dominated all three races which took place there last year).
Austria’s Brigitte Obermoser and Alexandra Meissnitzer, the winner in the last giant slalom in Park City, both came close to the leaders. Meissnitzer, who finished once on the podium in a World Cup downhill after winning two super-G races in 1996, needs to score in the top-3 for the speed events for a chance to play in the battle for the overall World Cup victory this season against Germany’s Martina Ertl and Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg.
Both Ertl and Wiberg placed among the top-10 during the training runs, but they need a tougher course to have a chance for a top spot.
Renate Goetschl, the best Austrian last winter with a win at Altenmark, was disappointed with slower times that kept her out of the top 10. Sylviane Berthod (SUI) skied the best training run for her team with 15th place the first day.
Croatian wondergirl Janica Kostelic, who will race in her very first World Cup downhill, had a tough time during these training runs her first despite much training in this discipline. She was 51st on Tuesday and 33rd on Wednesday. Her goal is to score points and to get used to speed before the super-G race on Sunday. Her father Ante, who is also her trainer, believes that she can produce a good result in the super-G after finishing twice among the top four in Park City last week.
Only one US racer was able to score a top 10 result Megan Gerety, who had strong training runs. In the absence of Picabo Street, she should become the leader in the US downhill squad.
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