Mancuso shows improved form at giant slalom |

Mancuso shows improved form at giant slalom

Eric Willemsen
The Associated Press
Aspen, CO Colorado
Julia Mancuso, of the United States, passes a gate during the first run of an alpine ski, Women's World Cup Giant slalom race, in Semmering, Austria, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008. (AP Photo/Marco Trovati)

SEMMERING, Austria ” Julia Mancuso put on her old ski boots and took a big step forward Sunday, producing her best outing since back problems slowed her in the fall.

The 2006 Olympic champion from Olympic Valley, Calif., turned in two solid runs that left her in sixth place at a World Cup giant slalom on the Panorama course. She was 1.27 seconds behind winner Kathrin Zettel of Austria.

Manuela Moelgg of Italy was the runner-up, 0.37 seconds behind and 17-year-old Lara Gut of Switzerland was third. Defending overall World Cup champion Lindsey Vonn was eighth.

“The second run could have been better but I am excited,” said Mancuso, who missed a lot of training in the fall because of a sore back and used the Christmas break for some additional training. “My body feels good. And I switched back to my old boots, which I am more comfortable in. I am gaining confidence and feel like getting back to my old form.”

Two mistakes in her second run cost Vonn considerable time, but she maintained her lead in the overall standings.

“This is a super result for me,” Vonn said. “The slope was quite fast in the middle part but I did not adjust my skies correctly.”

The Minnesota skier has 470 points, followed by Tanja Poutiainen of Finland (418) and Maria Riesch of Germany (407).

Zettel clinched her second title of the season and fourth overall after finishing the two runs in 2 minutes, 10.90 seconds.

“This is an incredible feeling,” Zettel said. “Winning in front of a home crowd really means a lot to me.”

Zettel also won the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden in October and won the previous GS in Semmering in 2006.

“I couldn’t be more happy,” said Zettel, who won all her titles in the giant slalom. “This obviously is my strongest discipline. The slope here suits me very well.”

Moelgg led after the first run but had to settle for second for the fourth time this year.

“I lost too much speed in the upper part (of the second run),” said Moelgg, who was 14th in the final run. “But I am glad with the result anyway.”

Gut was 13th after the opening run but posted the fastest time in the final leg to finish third, trailing Zettel by 0.55 seconds.

“I didn’t find the right line in the first run,” said Gut, who won her first World Cup title in her native St. Moritz last week. “I knew exactly what I had to do better in the second. It worked out really great.”

Nicole Hosp of Austria was third going into the second run and had the fastest intermediate time, but she crashed after losing a ski on the steep part of the course.

World champion Anja Paerson of Sweden finished fourth after skiing off course in her second run. Denise Karbon of Italy, who won five out of seven giant slaloms last season, came in fifth.

A women’s World Cup slalom in Semmering is scheduled for Monday.

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