Park City, Utah (USA). The penultimate Parallel Giant Slalom of the 2000/2001 Nokia Snowboard FIS World Cup concluded the final test for the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympic Games at Park City Mountain Resort today. Alexander Maier from Austria and Swiss rider Steffi von Siebenthal claimed the wins on “C.B.’s run”.
For the fourth day in a row Park City presented itself at its best with beautiful sunshine almost all day and perfect snow conditions. While the alpine riders had checked out “C.B.’s run” already last year in Giant Slalom it was the first time today that they tried it for a Parallel Giant Slalom which will be carried out also at the Olympics next year. They judged it to be worth for an Olympic slope but also stated that it’s very demanding and really technical in the upper steep section leading on to a flat part.
Alexander Maier who is a bit tired of being called the younger brother of Austria’s alpine skier ‘The Hermanator’ proved his own strength with winning his first-ever World Cup today. He had eliminated Guillaume Sachot from France in the round of 16, knocked out US rider Christopher J. Klug in the quarter finals and won over his teammate Werner Ebenbauer to meet Swiss rider Gilles Jaquet in the final duel. In the first run both crashed in the upper part of the course and Maier hurt his shoulder but due to the fact that Jaquet had pulled out one gate earlier than the Austrian, Maier had the lead by the pentalty time of 1.72 seconds when starting for the second run. Winning that one too he took the win. “This is just great,” he said, “my brother also won his first race on this hill, it’s my father’s birthday, so I really like it today. I had a perfect start and was a bit ahead but then crashed which was really bad – I had an operation in my left shoulder which has taken two years of my career and this is all right now but I fell on the other side today and I hope I will not have to go through all that again. This win was very important for me, also with regard to the Olympics – we are ten guys in Austria and there are seven or eight in the top 16 so it’s not easy to make the Olympic team. Today’s result gives me a lot of confidence and I hope to make it – I really want to be back here next year.”
Gilles Jaquet went in second. “I’m really tired,” he said, “and I didn’t have enough power anymore in the last two runs so I made a lot of mistakes but I’m happy – it was a nice slope and a good show. They still need to work on the hanging part on one side but I’m sure it’s going to be great at the Olympics.”
Werner Ebenbauer met his teammate Stefan Kaltschuetz in the small final for third place was only five hundrets of a second behind him after the first run but then made a mistake in the second run and Kaltschuetz finally claimed the bronze. “I’m glad that I made it to the podium after some bad results lately,” he said, “and it’s nice to have it at this pre-Olympic race. I will focus on Parallel GS now and hope I can make some good results next season also.”
Mathieu Bozzetto from France was knocked out in the round of 16 today but still keeps the lead in the World Cup standings ahead of his fellow countryman Nicolas Huet and Sweden’s Richard Richardsson.
In the womens’ race Swiss rider Steffi von Siebenthal won her second World Cup today after Sapporo two weeks ago. She had beaten Margherita Parini from Italy, US rider Rosey Fletcher and Italian Carmen Ranigler and faced France’s Karine Ruby in the final duel. Ruby won the first run but then made a mistake in the second and left the door open for the Swiss. “I’m very satisfied,” von Siebenthal said, “I had a good feeling on the board and it was fun to ride the course. It was set very technically and you could not just let it go. I also had my problems here and there, you always make some mistakes and then just try to make the best out of it without losing too much speed.”
Karine Ruby who had taken a break after Japan to go surfing on Hawaii for a couple of days, looked as if she had taken the right decision with some time off the slopes. She pulled second today. “I’m very happy,” she said, “it has been some time that I couldn’t pull it together really and I started to lack confidence. Today I liked my riding again and although I made this mistake in the finals it doesn’t hurt too much. I was also very motivated today because this was the pre-Olympic race and I’m glad I made it up there. The slope is nice and it was a good setting today but I think they have to watch out that especially the flat will not be set too straight, otherwise I like it a lot.”
Swiss rider Milena Meisser met Carmen Ranigler in the small final for third place. Ranigler won the first run but then attacked too hard in the second and had to leave it with Meisser.
With today’s win Ruby claimed the World Cup lead again. Rosey Fletcher moved up to second ahead of Ranigler.
The World Cup returns to Europe now for the finals which will be held at Ruka, Finland, from 14 through 17 March, featuring Parallel Giant Slalom, Parallel Slalom, Halfpipe and Snowboard Cross.