Women's GS: Maribor, Slovenia
January 2, 1999
Austriaís veteran Anita Wachter has celebrated one of the greatest wins in the first giant slalom of the new year held on the "Classical" Pohorje course in Maribor, Slovenia. A week after her impressive comeback at Semmering, near Vienna, the soon to be 32-year-old skier from Schruns once again defeated her rivals.
"I didnít feel overconfident before the first run because I injured myself slightly at an ankle while playing volleyball," Wachter said, "I think the fact that I didnít feel great pressure after my last success in Semmering helped me to have two solid runs.
The tiny 1988 combined Olympic Champion beat by 91/100 of a second Switzerlandís Sonja Nef, the leader after the first run while Austrian teammate Alexandra Meissnitzer came in 3rd at almost a full second behind.
Norwayís Andrine Flemmen, the winner in Sölden in October, was 4th in front of Germanyís Hilde Gerg, the best earlier in the morning in the Super-G. Italyís Deborah Compagnoni came in at a promising 6th place thanks to an aggressive second run while Martina Ertl only finished in 12th place after making a big mistake in the middle of the second run.
Pernilla Wiberg and Americaís Caroline Lalive, 25th in the first run, didnít make it through the second run.
Wachter has raced for more than 15 years in Maribor, the most traditional event on the womenís tour, but she could never with overc the Slovenian competition. Three times she's come in 2nd, in 1990, 1993 and 1997 and she was delighted to have joined some of the greatest ski racers on the prestigious list of past winners.
"This is a great race and it means a lot to me to win it finally," she said. "Iím really pleased to have decided to keep on racing after my injury at Cortina last year."
Wachter, who set the fastest time in the second run with an advance of 85/100 on Andrine Flemmen, is in fact achieving an amazing comeback this winter. In January 1998, her career seemed over after she blew out one of her knees after falling in a Super-G in Cortina díAmpezzo. But a smooth operation done in her home town by an recognized expert, Mr. Christian Schenk gave her a new motivation.
"I couldnít stop that way I had to try a last time," she explained. The 1993 overall World Cup winner is still aiming at her first gold medal at the World Championships. She has a nice collection of silver and bronze medals won since her first participation at medal events in 1985, but no World title. Now she definitely belongs to the top favorites for the title next February at Vail.
Sonja Nef also won a kind of race against herself today in capturing second place, her best performance on the World Cup tour in the last 11 months when she was also 2nd in Are, Sweden. Three years ago, the charming Sonja reached her first podium here before winning her first slalom later on in Sestriere. She was even leading the first run at the 1996 Ski World Championships in Sierra Nevada when she crashed out of course in the second run.
She needed a lot of time to overcome this disappointment. She had often problems later on to achieve two good runs in a row. In Park City in November, she again skied out after clocking the second best time in the first run. This strong performance will boost her morale two weeks after the great success of her teammate in the slalom at Veysonnaz.
"It was really difficult for me because of the poor visibility," Nef said. "I did my best, but I was afraid to ski out in the fog. Itís a very important result for me after my slow season start. Itís important for me to know that Iím able to come through two runs after taking many risks."
Alexandra Meissnitzer, who grabbed her third top-3 finish this season beside her two wins in Park City and Val díIsère, was tired in the second run in which she was not as aggressive as usual. "It has been a long day for me," she said. "Itís really demanding to take part in two races on the same day. I was quite disappointed after my slow Super-G and I was hoping to do better in the giant slalom. The poor visibility disturbed me. Now I will try to have a good rest before the next races in Germany. There are many races in January and I need to spare energy for the World Championships at Vail."
The Austrian didnít lose to much terrain on her closest rivals in the overall World Cup standings. It was a good day for Hilde Gerg, 5th in the giant slalom despite much fog on the course during her run. "I've started to find back my best rhythm," she said. "Iím afraid that Alexandra canít be reached in the World Cup ranking but I feel able to have good races at Vail after this day. Itís my third best result in a GS race so Iím more than happy."
She will aim for her first win in slalom on Sunday against the other favorites such as Switzerlandís Karen Roten and Sonja Nef, Kristina Koznick from the US, Urska Hrovat and Spela Pretnar from Slovenia, as well as Anja Paerson and Pernilla Wiberg from Sweden.
Mountain Zone European Ski Correspondent
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