World Cup racing shifts to Beaver Creek

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The Independent Online

On less than a week's notice, Copper Mountain in Colorado turned a logistical nightmare into two highly successful women's World Cup ski races. Now, it is Beaver Creek's turn.

On less than a week's notice, Copper Mountain in Colorado turned a logistical nightmare into two highly successful women's World Cup ski races. Now, it is Beaver Creek's turn.

Beaver Creek will stage four men's races this week, beginning on Tuesday.

At Copper Mountain, a women's giant slalom on Friday and a slalom on Saturday came off without a hitch, with competitors raving about the bulletproof racing surface of man-made snow, which held up even for the higher seeds.

After France's Regine Cavagnoud won Friday's race, a mere nine months after major knee surgery, the French captured another gold medal on Saturday when Christelle Saioni tied Slovenia's Spela Pretnar for first.

Saturday's slalom was most notable for the number of racers using short skis. Saioni and Pretnar both previously raced slalom on 184-centimeter skis. Switching to 160 and 165 skis, respectively, they overtook first-run leader Trine Bakke of Norway on the second run. Bakke also switched to 160s for slalom.

The shorter skis give racers a quicker reaction time and tend to be more forgiving of mistakes.

One who didn't use them was Kristina Koznick of Burnsville, Minnesota, a two-time World Cup race winner who finished a disappointing 14th, more than two seconds off the pace.

Over the summer, Koznick switched brands as well as lengths, and she is still struggling with the adjustments. She trained on 183s in the summer and raced on 177s on Saturday.

"It's been a frustrating summer," Koznick said. "Switching equipment is tough, and it's a decision I made, but it's also frustrating because I have a style I'm used to. I just have to modify it a little. I thought I could be ready by now.

"I didn't change my goals going into the season, and maybe I should have. Sometimes I underestimate what I'm capable of."

After Koznick was the only American to qualify among the top 30 for the second run of GS on Friday, US coaches told the team its effort was embarrassing and unacceptable. Much of the criticism was directed at Sarah Schleper of Vail, Colorado, who responded by finishing 20th on Saturday.

"I need a kick in the butt," said Schleper, who admitted she was missing the kind of motivation she had last year when the World Championships were scheduled for her hometown.

The two races were moved to Copper Mountain because of insufficient snow in Park City, Utah. The women now move to Lake Louise, Alberta, for a downhill and super-G this weekend.

The men racers, meanwhile, will have makeup races on Tuesday and Wednesday in Beaver Creek - a slalom and giant slalom. After two days of downhill training, the originally scheduled Beaver Creek downhill will be held on Saturday, followed by a super-G on Sunday.

After approving the Birds of Prey course for the slalom and giant slalom earlier last week, Gunter Hujara, technical director for the International Ski Federation, gave approval on Sunday for the downhill and super-G.

"FIS is very happy and excited about the work that has been done in an almost impossible situation," Hujara said. "The organizers have achieved what must have been a world record for course preparation."

The Vail area received about two inches of snow on Saturday night, with several inches more expected before Tuesday's slalom.

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