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Flemmen Wins Opening Race
Women's GS: Sölden, AUT
Saturday, Oct. 24, 1998
[Click for Men's GS Story]

Andrine Flemmen Norwegian Andrine Flemmen
Norway's Andrine Flemmen celebrated her first World Cup win in the first alpine ski race of the 1998-'99 season. The 23-year-old skier from Molde was able to defend her lead from the first run to beat Austria’s Alexandra Meissnitzer by .026. Deborah Compagnoni, 2nd after the first run ended up 3rd at .057 back.

It’s the first success ever for Norway’s women’s team in a World Cup giant slalom and the first since Ingeborg Marken’s win in Lillehammer in 1996. Flemmen, who placed 3rd in a World Cup race a year ago in Utah’s Park City, had a hard time believing what had happened on the challenging course of the Rettenbach glacier above Sölden.

"This is wonderful. I have worked so hard to reach this goal and I can’t express my joy which is so strong," said Flemmen. "After my excellent first run, I tried hard to remain focused on the technical aspects of the competition in order to forget about my lead. It worked well."

"After my excellent first run, I tried hard to remain focused on the technical aspects of the competition in order to forget about my lead. It worked well..." —Andrine Flemmen

Andrine, in her fifth World Cup season, had a strong '97-'98 winter with several top-10 results. She was 4th in Bormio, Italy, after setting the best time in the first run, but was too nervous to retain her lead.

Women's Podium Women's Podium
It was also a great day for Meissnitzer who confirmed her ambition to become one of the world’s best GS specialists. Last winter, the skier from the Salzburgerland won the last giant slalom race in Crans-Montana as well as a GS Olympic medal at Nagano.

"I have changed ski supplier during last summer and this result is very important for my confidence," she said. "I had a great second run — the crowd supported me a lot. We have trained a lot despite difficult snow conditions on the European glacier and I have great goals for this coming season."

Deborah Compagnoni Deborah Compagnoni (ITA)
Deborah Compagnoni was also pleased with her result as she has been suffering for months from back pain. Since last August she has not been able to train as intensively as planned and had to take a pain killer before her first run.

"I was not able to be as aggressive as usual today," Compagnoni, last year's best GS skier, said. "I was very tired in the last flat part and I lost a lot of time there, but this result is fine. Last year I peaked too early and I struggled in the middle of the season before the Olympics. I want to win another gold medal at Vail in February before to end my career."

Andrine Flemmen Flemmen's winning form
Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg, who had strong headache after a bad crash in training on Friday, couldn’t take part in the race. She may be obliged to rest a while before training again. But the 1997 Overall World Cup winner remains confident. "I have trained hard to come back after the disappointing last season," said the multiple gold medal winner. "I will be fine in November."

Ironically, her boyfriend Bòdvar Bjoerke is one of the Norwegian team trainers, with whom Pernilla has been training this fall. "Andrine and Pernilla were cruising at the same level in the last tests," admitted Bòdvar. "It’s just too bad that she couldn’t race today".

Germany’s Martina Ertl, the defending GS World Cup Champion, came in 10th at 2.61 seconds. And a very impressive result was achieved by Janica Kostelic, from Croatia, 12th thanks to a great second run. She is only 16 and has only once started in World Cup race last winter.

None of the US skiers could qualify for the second run. Apparently only Kristina Kosznick, the slalom specialist, may be able to aim for places among the best on the World Cup tour. She will have the opportunity to show her talent in three weeks in Park City, Utah.

— Mountain Zone European Ski Correspondent

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