Rienda saves best for last
ASPEN – Twelve years into a World Cup career, Maria Jose Rienda has blossomed into a regular podium contender in giant slalom.The 30-year-old technical specialist from Granada, Spain, won Saturday’s giant slalom on Aspen Mountain with a combined two-run time of 1 minute, 57.17 seconds. The win marked Rienda’s third World Cup victory – all coming in GS and all in the last two seasons.Defending World Cup overall champion, Anja Paerson, of Sweden finished 0.34 seconds back to take silver – her seventh World Cup podium in Aspen. Kathrin Zettel, 19, of Austria was third in 1:57.53. Rienda was the final skier out of 30 to take to the course for the second run, after posting the fastest first-run time of 58.37 seconds. Contending with shadows and a rutted track, Rienda attacked from the start gates all the way to the finish line on the Ruthie’s Run course to record the seventh-fastest second run and earn the win.
“In the first run, I felt so well heading down, and now in the second run I feel so aggressive,” she said. “I learn from mistakes for gold and I ski so well.”In the last two seasons, Rienda has also finished second once and third four times in GS. She didn’t have a definitive answer as to why she has skied so well in GS the past two years after 10 years of skiing without a podium finish. With a small team, and a small national program for juniors in Spain, it’s difficult to compete immediately at the World Cup level, Rienda said. “Winning is nice,” she said. “It’s so nice for me, for the team, for the coaches. We work so hard and now we do so well.”Paerson takes silver
Paerson said she was happy with second after a disappointing start to the season. She took bronze in the opening GS in Soelden, Austria, but failed to finish higher than 36th during three races in Lake Louise, Alberta, earlier this month. She was 12th in Friday’s super-G.”It was pretty hard to for me in Lake Louise,” she said. “I kind of felt like I lost all the confidence in the skis. Today I just wanted to attack everything.”Canada’s Emily Brydon, skiing first in the second run, was the early leader Saturday but got bumped all the way back to 11th after the final 20 skiers took to the course.Austrians finish well
Zettel’s second run from the 27th position knocked Croatian star Janica Kostelic out of the top three. With her second-place finish, Paerson is now tied with Kostelic for seven top-three finishes in Aspen. Zettel’s bronze marked the first career World Cup podium for the young talent from the deep Austrian women’s team. After putting five skiers in the top 10 Friday, the Austrians did so again Saturday with Zettel leading a 3-5-7-9-10 finish.Michaela Dorfmeister, who took silver in super-G Friday, was fifth (1:57.87), followed by Elisabeth Goergl (1:58.41), Michaela Kirchgasser (1:58.59) and Andrea Fischacher (1:58.85).
The points raceThe 45 FIS points Dorfmeister won Saturday helped her take the lead from teammate Alexandra Meissnizter in the women’s overall competition. Dorfmeister currently leads with 334 points, followed by Meissnizter (260), then Lindsey Kildow of Vail (221) and Fischbacher in a tie for third with 221 points. Kildow skied wide of a gate midway through her first run Saturday and failed to earn a second run, finishing out of the points.Zettel, through an interpreter, said her finish was just one piece of another strong team showing for the world’s deepest national team. Austria extended its lead in the Nations Cup; the United States currently sits in second in the national team competition.”This group of young girls are very good, especially in the technical disciplines,” Zettel said, referring to herself, Goergl and Kirchgasser – who are all under 25.”I definitely respect the older ones (on the team). Probably we’re not as afraid of them now.”
After winning the previous two women’s overall titles, Paerson said she is not aiming for the title again this season. An Olympic gold medal from Torino, Italy, is the most important goal. In her first Winter Games in Salt Lake City in 2002, Paerson won silver in giant slalom and a bronze in slalom.”I’m really happy coming here to the World Cup, trying to win some races and fight for the World Cup,” said Paerson, who now has 63 World Cup podiums. “The World Cup is really important for me, but somewhere back in my head, the only thing that matters is to try to win the Olympic gold medal. I have big pressure on myself and I’m going to try and do my best.”Today’s slalom wraps up this year’s Winternational World Cup races. The first run begins at 10 a.m., followed by the second run at 1 p.m.Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.orgVail, Colorado