Larsson earns first World Cup win
Associated PressARE, Sweden – Markus Larsson posted his first World Cup win Saturday in the final slalom of the season, and the United States finished with three men in the top 10 of the overall standings for the first time.Larsson’s win came as discipline champion Giorgio Rocca failed to finish his fourth straight race in the event.It was the first time in 13 years that a Swedish man had won a World Cup slalom. The last was Thomas Fogdoe in 1993 at the same venue. It also was the first World Cup victory in four years by a Swedish man – Fredrik Nyberg won a giant slalom in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia, in 2001.”I can’t believe it’s true,” Larsson said. “This has been a dream for me my whole life. I was a small kid, watching Fogdoe when he won here in 1993. Ever since, this has been a dream for me.”Larsson, second after the opening run, went down the Gastrappet course in windy and rainy conditions in a two-run combined time of 1 minute, 41.35 seconds.”The harder you work and the longer you wait for the victory, the better it feels,” the 27-year-old Larsson said. “I could hear the crowd cheering for me and it made me want to risk even more and go for it. I wanted to risk everything today because I knew I had a chance to win.”
Stephane Tissot of France was runner-up in 1:42.17. Thomas Grandi of Canada placed third in 1:42.28 for his third consecutive podium finish and his fifth this season.”It’s been a great run since the Olympics,” Grandi said. “The Olympics were a bit disappointing. I didn’t achieve my goals there, but coming out after the Olympics and getting these three podiums has made up for it.”Rocca locked up the World Cup slalom title when Kalle Palander of Finland tore ligaments in his left knee in Friday’s giant slalom. Rocca began the season with five straight World Cup slalom wins, but he failed to finish the following two and then crashed out in the Olympic race on home snow where he was considered a strong favorite.Overall champion Benjamin Raich of Austria and Olympic combined gold medalist Ted Ligety of the United States – the only skiers who could have overtaken Palander for second place in the slalom standings – both had bad races.In the first run, Raich straddled a gate. Ligety missed one at the bottom of the course and hiked back up to finish last with a 6 1/2-second deficit. He finished 16th and out of the points after his second run.Rocca won the slalom standings with 547 points. Palander finished second with 495 points, followed by Raich with 410 and Ligety with 396.Ligety did help the U.S. men put three skiers in the top 10 of the overall standings. Bode Miller was third with 928 points and Daron Rahlves was fourth with 903, while Ligety was ninth with 636.Raich ended the season with 1,410 points overall, while Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway finished second in the standings with 1,006.Miller, who was 11th in Saturday’s opening run, straddled a gate on the second run. He failed to finish six of eight World Cup slaloms this season.
Miller, who was shut out at the Turin Games after entering the Olympics as a medal contender in all five disciplines, finished second in Wednesday’s downhill and won Thursday’s super-G at the World Cup Finals, but slammed into a gate and veered off course Friday on the first run of the giant slalom.”It’s a tough schedule. More than anything it’s hard to manage yourself,” said Miller, who races all disciplines.Kostelic wins giant slalomJanica Kostelic won the women’s World Cup giant slalom finale Saturday and broke the record of Pernilla Wiberg for the number of points in a single season.Kostelic, who clinched the World Cup overall title on Thursday, ended the season with 1,970 points after the last of 36 races. Sweden’s Wiberg had 1,960 points in the 1996-97 season. The Croat needed to win Saturday’s giant slalom to break the record.”That’s cool, right?” Kostelic said. “Maybe next year someone will say ’10 more points and we’ll beat Janica’s record.’ It’s good to be one of those people whose record has to be beaten. I’m on top now, so it’s great.”Anja Paerson clinched the World Cup giant slalom title by finishing ahead of her only remaining challenger, Maria Jose Rienda Contreras. Rienda Contreras, who had hoped to give Spain its first World Cup title, had entered the race trailing Paerson by 45 points.Paerson was seventh in Saturday’s race, and Rienda Contreras was eighth.
Paerson, who last year edged Kostelic by three points for the overall title, was a distant runner-up this time with 1,662. Michaela Dorfmeister of Austria, who is retiring, finished third with 1,364 points.The giant slalom title marked Paerson’s sixth career World Cup globe. She won the overall in the two previous seasons, and has one slalom and three giant slalom globes.”It’s always important for me to end the season well,” Paerson said. “And this year I was not so close to the other World Cups, so I wanted to try and get this one. It felt very important to come home with a globe this year.”The 24-year-old Swede now will travel to Vail, Colo., to undergo arthroscopic surgery on both knees on Thursday. She has had severe pain that has hampered her season, especially in the speed events.Kostelic, who led after the opening run, went down the Olympic course in windy and rainy conditions with an aggregate two-run time of 2 minutes, 6.41 seconds. Canada’s Genevieve Simard moved from third on the first run into second in 2:07.02 with a strong second run.”I wanted to end the season on a good note,” Simard said after her third podium result of the season. “I feel good about it because the conditions weren’t easy and it didn’t bother me, I was really attacking.”I was anxious (on the) second run, I felt it in my stomach. But I thought of how confident I felt and what I needed to do, and I knew if I focused on that the result would come.”Austria’s Nicole Hosp, who was second after the first run, tied for third with Tanja Poutiainen of Finland in 2:07.95.Paerson topped the season’s giant slalom standings with 586 points. Rienda Contreras was second with 537. With Saturday’s win, Kostelic climbed from fourth into third with 464.Vail, Colorado
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