Wiberg, Klammer win giant slalom at American Ski Classic | VailDaily.com

Wiberg, Klammer win giant slalom at American Ski Classic

Ian Smith
Vail, CO Colorado
ASC Men's Giant Slalom DT 3-19-09

VAIL, Colorado ” Their accomplishments read like a history book of the greatest alpine racers of all-time.

World Cup titles and Olympic medals dot the skiers’ resumes at the American Ski Classic in Vail. So, Thursday’s Volvo Legends giant slalom should have been just for fun, right?

Try again.

The competitive fire apparently never leaves when you’re used to standing on the podium. Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg and Austria’s Franz Klammer calmed their desire to win for at least a day with victories in the giant slalom.

“Whenever you do race, even if it’s like this charity race or a World Cup race, you would still like to win,” Wiberg said. “It’s a nice feeling. Before the race, you think it’s fun, blah, blah, blah. Then you’re totally excited and nervous. You feel like you felt in the old times.”

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Wiberg still looked the part of World Cup skier on Thursday. She’s especially at home at Vail, having won a combined gold and a silver in the slalom in the 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships. During her 14-year veteran, Wiberg won a World Cup event in all five disciplines and compiled 24 wins overall. She showed she had a little speed left in her legs on Thursday.

Wiberg, 38, advanced to the finals with wins over Barbara Ferries-Hednerson and Holly Flanders in the head-to-head format. In the finals, Wiberg met Canada’s Karen Stemmle. The two were neck-and-neck on their second run when Stemmle clipped a gate and fell.

Stemmle would be OK, but the title was Wiberg’s.

“It’s crazy,” Wiberg said. “You don’t think that (the competitiveness) is still there, but it is.”

Klammer wins men’s title

Klammer was also feeling an adrenaline rush when he took the starting gate. Since 1986, Klammer’s only missed one American Ski Classic. His victory on Thursday was his third in the event. Klammer beat some young competiton fresh from the World Cup for his crown in Hannes Trinkl and Fritz Storbl.

“I love to come here,” Klammer said. “I love the racing. It’s perfect.”

After edging Strobl in the semifinals, Klammer met Trinkl with the title on the line. Klammer started 0.5 seconds ahead of Trinkl on the second run due to a handicap and he held off his countryman in a photo finish.

Klammer is no stranger to the winner’s circle. During his illustrious career, he racked up 25 World Cup downhill victories.

“Victory is always sweet,” Klammer said. “It really gets your juices flowing. In the finals, you don’t want to lose.”

Rahlves goes down

One of the favorites heading into the race had to be Daron Rahlves. The 35-year-old retired in 2006 but not before he won 12 World Cup races, including two downhills at Beaver Creek.

Unfortunately for Rahlves, the handicap made it difficult for him to win. Rahlves lost to Strobl in the first round on Thursday. Strobl narrowly clipped Rahlves to advance.

“It’s amazing how fast these guys still are,” Rahlves said. “On this course, anybody can be fast. I thought I had Fritz in the bag. We had to fight for it. We were almost even four gates from the finish line, but he had a little bit of advantage at the finish line.”

The American Ski Classic continues today with the Ford Cup Race at 9:30 a.m.

Sports Writer Ian Smith can be reached at 970-748-2935 or ismith@vaildaily.com.

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