Skiing: Mancuso subjects Austrians to lost weekend

Karen Putzer of Italy was the surprise first-run leader in a World Cup giant slalom race yesterday, while favorites Anja Paerson and Nicole Hosp failed to finish.

Wearing the No. 24 bib, Putzer covered the Olimpia delle Tofane course in 1 minute, 22.45 seconds.

Olympic giant slalom champion Julia Mancuso of the United States and Anna Ottosson of Sweden were tied for second, 0.37 seconds behind.

Mancuso is bidding for a fifth straight podium finish.

"I'm psyched. It wasn't really the best run because it was hard in the fog but the snow was awesome, the best it's been this year, so it was fun," Mancuso said.

Ottosson's only win came in this race seven years ago.

Putzer finished second in the overall standings in 2003 but hasn't won a race since then. She struggled with a bad hip for three seasons before having surgery in May - with the same New York surgeon who operated on Mancuso a month earlier.

After crossing the finish line, Putzer let out a big scream of relief.

Several skiers struggled with the thick fog hanging over most of the course.

Hosp, the Austrian who leads the GS standings and who won the last GS in Kranjska Gora on Jan. 6, fell and bloodied her chin.

"I got on the inside ski and I fell down. I'm happy that I'm well," Hosp said.

Paerson missed a gate midway through her run. The two-time overall World Cup champion has struggled this season following knee surgery. She hasn't won since the final downhill last season in Are, the Swedish resort that will host the World Championships Feb. 3-18.

"I had some new skis and I was really aggressive and I couldn't really be comfortable," Paerson said. "You don't see anything. That's why it's a lot of crashes. It's really hard to find the timing with the gates."

Paerson planned to fly home to Sweden later Sunday to prepare for the worlds, meaning she will skip three races in San Sicario next weekend.

Current overall leader Marlies Schild was a distant 26th after the opening run.

Schild leads with 881 points, Hosp is second with 828 and Mancuso third with 714.

Paerson trails in seventh position with 529 points, and sees no chance of winning.

"It's (300) points, man," Paerson said.