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Putzer wins first career victory

Italy's Karen Putzer was the disbelieving winner of the women's super-G in St Moritz today, upsetting the field's elite to collect her first career World Cup victory.

Italy's Karen Putzer was the disbelieving winner of the women's super-G in St Moritz today, upsetting the field's elite to collect her first career World Cup victory.

Putzer, who had reached the podium only twice before, charged down the snowy, blustery 1,990-meter Corviglia II course in 1 minute, 27.37 seconds, finishing ahead of teammate Alessandra Merlin, second in 1:27.53, for a one-two Italian sweep of the podium.

Putzer, who does not race in the downhill and had shown particular skill in the giant slalom this season, stared disbelievingly at the scoreboard upon crossing the finishline, shaking her head.

"I actually thought I had a really bad run," said Putzer, who visited the podium on only two other occasions, finishing second in a giant slalom in Copper Mountain this year, and third in a super-G in Cortina in 1998. "I had a bad feeling and I didn't want to look at the clock.

"When I looked up at the score board and saw "number 1" next to my name I thought it was something else, not my position," said the 21-year-old Putzer, a former super-G and giant slalom junior world champion. "I can't believe I was first."

Merlin, earning her first career podium finish, was just as incredulous.

"It's unbelievable," laughed the 24-year-old Italian, whose previous best result was an eight place in a downhill in Lake Louise in 1998. "I'm so happy I can't believe it.

"I knew I was skiing well yesterday so I really attacked today and had a really good run," added the Italian, who finished 11th in Saturday's downhill.

Cavagnoud, a speed specialist who upset the form book when she stormed to victory in the giant slalom in Copper Mountain, was third, crossing in 1:27.60.

"It was a great race for me," said Cavagnoud, who had left the mountain angry after finishing 28th in Friday's downhill but a little mollified after placing sixth in Saturday's downhill. "I attacked well.

"The visibility was poor so you couldn't see very well and normally I don't do well in those circumstances," she said. "It's encouraging for the next races, and good to know I have my form back in the speed races."

Just as surprising as Putzer's win was the shutout of the field's elite skiers.

Overall World Cup leader Isolde Kostner finished in 12th, 1.16 seconds back, while Hilde Gerg, runner-up in both previous super-G races, finished back in 14th, 1.32 adrift.

Michaela Dorfmeister, runner-up in the World Cup super-G standings last year behind currently injured teammate Alexandra Meissnitzer, finished seventh, trailing by .69.

Austrian speed specialist Renate Goetschl, the reigning World Cup downhill champion, was ninth in 1:28.13.

The Italian success marked the end of a fruitful weekend for the team, with Kostner winning Friday's downhill and jumping to the top of the World cup overall standings with her seventh place in Saturday's downhill.

Despite Kostner's failure to reach the podium in Sunday's super-G, the Italian still maintained her lead atop the overall, where she leads with 477 points, ahead of teammates Dorfmeister, second with 449, and Goetschl, third with 446.

Kostner also leads the downhill and super-G standings.

While the super-G saw fewer causalities than the downhills, the Corviglia II still claimed a victim Sunday.

Austrian rookie Silvia Berger, runner-up in a giant slalom in Val d'Isere, crashed out midway down the course, tearing ligaments in her left knee.

Berger was only one in a long list of patients at the St. Moritz Gut Clinic over the weekend.

Norway's Kristine Kristiansen lost control of her skis during Saturday's downhill, crashed wildly into the catch-nets, tearing anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in her left knee and fracturing her wrist.

Switzerland's Sylviane Berthod also ended up in the emergency room Saturday after rupturing knee ligaments upon landing a jump, putting an end to her season.

The same day Austria's Marianne Salchinger also had an ugly accident which left her with a distortion of the cervical spine. She was, however, able to compete in the super-G the following day.

The newly-reconfigured course had already claimed a victim of note on Thursday, when the World Cup's rising star Janica Kostelic crash-landed, suffering multiple torn ligaments, which ended her season.