Hoelzl wins giant slalom at worlds; Mancuso 18th | AspenTimes.com

Hoelzl wins giant slalom at worlds; Mancuso 18th

Andrew Dampf
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Germany's Kathrin Hoelzl is carried shoulders high by her teammate Maria Riesch as she celebrates after winning the Women's Giant Slalom race, at the World Alpine Ski Championships in Val d'Isere, France, Thursday, Feb. 12, 2009. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

VAL D’ISERE, France ” Kathrin Hoelzl of Germany won the giant slalom at the world championships on Thursday after the favorites faltered.

Hoelzl timed 2 minutes, 3.49 seconds over two runs down the steep Bellevarde course. Tina Maze of Slovenia finished second, 0.09 seconds behind, and Tanja Poutiainen of Finland was third.

“When I looked at the time, I thought it would be enough for a medal but not the gold,” Hoelzl said. “I just let my skis run.”

American Lindsey Vonn, the worlds Super-G and downhill champion, sat out as she recovers from surgery on her right thumb. Vonn cut herself on a champagne bottle while celebrating her victory in the downhill on Monday.

Hoelzl is the first German giant slalom world champion ” male or female ” since Maria Epple won on home snow in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1978. The 24-year-old Hoelzl has never won on the World Cup tour, with her best finish second in a giant slalom in 2007.

“The second run was much more difficult than the first,” Hoelzl said. “It was brutal.”

Hoelzl was fourth after the opening run, 0.68 seconds behind leader Kathrin Zettel of Austria.

Olympic giant slalom Julia Mancuso of the United States finished 18th. She was 3 seconds behind after her first trip down.

“It was a little bit of a struggle for me. I almost fell twice,” Mancuso said of the opening run.

Zettel, who won the super-combi last week, made a big mistake at the beginning of her second run and finished sixth. Poutiainen was second after the first leg but took a few wide turns in her second trip down.

“That’s life. I had two or three mistakes in the second run, which was so hard to recover from,” Zettel said. “After the first big mistake I knew I had to risk all in the last part, so I made another mistake.”

Maze had the fastest second run, moving up from 15th after the opening leg. Maze, whose coach set the course for the second run, won her first medal in her fifth world championships.

Denise Karbon of Italy finished fourth and Michael Kirchgasser of Austria was fifth.

Zettel has won three of the six World Cup giant slaloms this season and holds a one-point lead over Poutiainen in the discipline standings. Poutiainen has also won three silvers at worlds and Olympics, but never gold.

The Bellevarde is the steepest course the women have raced on all season. Coaches initially were angling for the race to be moved to the women’s speed course, but fresh snow softened the track and slowed it down to make it manageable.

Still, more snowfall during the opening run made for deteriorating conditions and low visibility. Lights lining the course were turned on, but didn’t help much. Conditions improved only somewhat for the second leg.

Anja Paerson, a two-time world champion in GS, was ninth in the opening run, then dropped down to 15th after her second trip down.

“You needed to be aggressive and some of us were too aggressive and got thrown up in the air,” Paerson said. “Visibility came and went and mentally you thought you would see more than you did. Tanja had really bad light and also Kathrin had pretty much darkness. You could see they weren’t skiing relaxed.”

Nicole Gius of Italy was sixth after the first run and had a good second trip down before she lost control and fell hard on her back, bounced a few times on the snow and slid for about 50 yards before coming to a stop.

The next skier, Tessa Worley of France, lost her right pole but finished seventh.

In the first run, Swiss teenager Lara Gut was the only skier faster than Zettel through the first checkpoint before she missed a gate halfway down.

Defending champion Nicole Hosp, racing for the first time since an injury five weeks ago, struggled all the way down in her first run, crossing more than 4 seconds behind Zettel. She finished 23rd.

Maria Riesch of Germany also had a rough day, missing a gate in the second leg and hiking back up to place 28th, more than 11 seconds behind Hoelzl.

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