Women's GS: Semmering, AUT
December 27, 1998
Anita Wachter, an Austrian ski team veteran, celebrated one of her greatest wins ever in Semmering in front of a crowd of over 15,000 people. She beat teammate Alexandra Meissnitzer, the dominator so far this season, by .74 of a second.
"I canít believe it, itís crazy," she said after her race. "Itís wonderful to win again a race after such a long wait and this bad injury. Iím so happy to have decided to keep on racing another year."
Norwayís Andrine Flemmen, winner in October of the first women's GS race in Sölden, was third by 1.45 second.
This is Wachter's first success since January 1996 when she won a giant slalom in Italyís Cortina díAmpezzo. Itís also a great comeback for the dean of the womenís team who injured her knee last year after crashing in a Super-G in Cortina díAmpezzo.
Birgit Heeb of Liechtenstein came 4th in front of Swedenís Anna Ottosson and Janica Kostelic from Croatia. Germanyís Martina Ertl could only grab a distant 7th, just ahead of Switzerland's Sonja Nef from Switzerland and Sweden's Pernilla Wiberg.
Three-time Olympic champion Deborah Compagnoni, who suffered a knee injury last week during the slalom in Veysonnaz, Switzerland, didnít compete in this event. The Italian plans to return to the tour next week in Maribor, Slovenia.
Wachter, who has been racing on the World Cup tour since 1985, has already reached some of the greatest achievements of Alpine Skiing, including a total of 15 World Cup wins. She won the combined event at the Winter Olympics in Calgary and clinched the Overall World Cup title in 1993. Last season was supposed to be her last, but her accident at Cortina made her change her mind.
"I couldnít stop ski racing on such a bad moment," she said after her successful surgery in Schruns. A few weeks later, she was already able to walk with a cast and she decided at that point to remain on the World Cup tour for at least another winter.
In the first race of this season in Sölden, where she won a giant slalom race by an impressive margin of 2.63 seconds, Wachter did not qualify for the second run. But she has obviously improved her form and placed 3rd two weeks ago in Val díIsère, France.
In Semmering, the skier from Schruns, who will turn 32 in February, was able to shine, beating all the other favorites. She set the fastest intermediate time in the first run before coming second, only 17/100 behind Meissnitzer. In the second leg, she took all risks to improve her position and she beat Alexandra by 91/100.
"I still have an important goal to reach in my career: a gold medal at the Ski World Championships," she explained earlier this season. "I have a nice collection of silver and bronze medals but I still felt able to aim for a golden one."
This was Wachter's ninth success in a giant slalom race. She is now sure to take part in the eighth Ski World Championships in Vail this February. "The course there is very challenging; I like it a lot since I won there once in 1990," she said.
Anita became the fourth Austrian women skier to excel this season after Meissnitzer, Renate Goetschl and Christine Mitterwallner. Her team has so far won nine events out of fifteen.
Alexandra Meissnitzer was quite impressed by Wachterís incredible second run in which she only clocked the tenth best time. "Itís great for her but itís tough for me," she said. "I was aiming for my first World Cup win in Austria, but Anita skied an amazing second run. I had problems to find my rhythm in that run which was more technical. Now I will have to wait the race at St. Anton for an eventual revenge."
Andrine Flemmen, who set the second fastest time in the afternoon, conquered her first podium since her surprising win in Sölden. "I struggled in the last races, but I feel better now," she said. "Itís a great way to finish the year."
The next womenís race, a night slalom, is planned for Monday evening. Another Austrian skier, Sabine Egger, is also aiming for her first seasonís win. Among the other favorites are Anja Paerson, Ylva Nowen and Pernilla Wiberg, who placed 9th in the GS, as well as Karen Roten and Sonja Nef from Switzerland and Kristina Koznick from the US. Sloveniaís Urska Hrovat, winner at Park City in November, will apparently not be competing next week due to an ankle injury.
Mountain Zone European SkiCorrespondent
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