Kostner wins season-opener

After a pair of second-place finishes last year on the Lake Louise hill, Italy's Isolde Kostner tamed the course on Saturday to win the women's World Cup season-opening downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta.

After a pair of second-place finishes last year on the Lake Louise hill, Italy's Isolde Kostner tamed the course on Saturday to win the women's World Cup season-opening downhill in Lake Louise, Alberta.

Despite trailing at each of the three intermediate checkpoints, Kostner completed the 2,600-meter 1 minute, 36.92 seconds to win by .06 of a second.

"It was a really fast course, faster than other years," Kostner said. "The first years I came here I always went hard and crashed two or three times and it was a really bad course for me.

"But in the last three years I had good results and I like it very much."

The women approached speeds of 110 kph (70 mph) on the tricky course in brilliant sunshine and temperatures of minus-15 degrees Celius (5 degrees Fahrenheit).

Second place went to Germany's Hilde Gerg in 1:36.98. Third was Switzerland's Corinne Rey Bellet in a time of 1:37.20.

Warm weather and a lack of snow imperiled the event, but a round-the-clock operation by volunteers enabled organizers to get enough snow down to allow two training runs on Friday.

"We're very happy to get the race off because when we got here there was no snow," Bellet said. "The people here have done a wonderful job."

Gerg appeared to have the race won, leading by .22 seconds at the final intermediate timing post, but she made a critical error on the last left-hand turn heading into the finish area and lost precious time to allow Kostner's time to stand.

"I attacked at the top, but made a big mistake at the bottom and had to stand up and that's where I lost my time," said Gerg, 24, of Lenggries, Germany.

Germany placed two other skiers in the top five, Martina Ertl in fourth place with a time of 1:37.45 and Sibylle Brauner in fifth with a time of another sixth hundredths behind.

Slovenia's Mojca Suhadolc led the second 10 with a time of 1:37.96, and was followed by Janica Kostelic of Croatia (1:38.21), Sylviane Berthod of Switzerland (1:38.39), Italy's Bibiana Perez (1:38.42), and France's Regine Cavagnoud (1:38.55).

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