Halsnes and Kiehl take gold at American Ski Classic
VAIL ” With a gold medal as proof, Marina Kiehl raced well Wednesday night in the giant slalom at the American Ski Classic.
Kiehl, who hails from Germany, was happy with her win, but didn’t measure her race in terms of how she finished.
“Right now, it’s 4 a.m. in Germany, and normally, I’m sleeping. I’m racing now, so I did well tonight,” Kiehl said.
But standing on top of a podium in Vail was nothing new for Kiehl, who won World Cup super-Gs here in 1986 and 1987.
After winning their semifinal races, Kiehl and American Holly Flanders squared off in the finals. The semifinal and finals for both men’s and women’s competitions were head-to-head with racers handicapped based on a number of factors including age and year of retirement.
Flanders was happy to bring her home country at silver medal and enjoyed the high-level competition.
“It’s such a thrill to be in the gates with these great skiers,” Flanders said.
Toril Forland of Norway won the bronze medal race.
On the men’s side, winner Stein Halsnes of Norway progressed from his earlier qualification runs and shined in the finals.
“You have to ski good and be competitive, but you need a little luck. I did have the luck today,” Halsnes said. “I was a little uncomfortable in the qualification runs, then I got a little more comfortable and skied a little better. I’m happy I beat those guys.”
Halsnes edged out Hannes Trinkl of Austria in the finals. The silver was Trinkl’s second at Vail, as he earned a second-place finish in a World Cup downhill in 1994.
“Vail is a good place for me,” Trinkl said. “I have memories from the World Cup, and (some) today as a legend.”
American Steve Mahre took bronze.
A new experience
While the legends have raced thousands of times, some had never experienced the format of the Ski Classic.
“It’s my first time racing at night and the first time going against another racer,” Trinkl said. “It’s a nice experience. I hope I can do it more.”
Flanders said it was a bit difficult to see under the lights, but found the evening course conditions much to her liking.
Although most racers retired from professional skiing one or two decades ago, they looked in top form.
“I think when you are in the 50s like I am, and if you stay healthy and train a little bit, you’ll be able to ski well,” said the 52-year-old Halsnes. “But you have to do some skiing competitions, and I’ve been racing Masters Series and that helps me.”
And, they still know how to celebrate like pros.
Kiehl sprayed a bottle of Champagne into the crowd from the stage. Halsnes didn’t follow suit, but had no intention of leaving his bottle full.
“We are going to test the Champagne now,” Halsnes said.
Sports Writer Ian Cropp can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 14631, or email@example.com.
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