Skiing: Ortlieb is the fastest in first practice

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Patrick Ortlieb clocked the fastest time in yesterday's opening practice for the Alpine skiing World Cup downhill at Val d'Isere on Saturday. The Austrian, who won Olympic gold in this French resort in 1992, clocked 1min 10.39sec on the icy piste, which was shortened because of the lack of snow at the top.

Ortlieb has not won a World Cup downhill since winning in Kitzbuhel in 1994.

The Oreiller-Killy piste, on which the skiers will have to run two legs on Saturday, seemed to favour heavyweights since Norway's Atle Skaardal, who is stocky, had the second best time of 1:10.65 ahead of Austria's Roland Assinger. He is aiming to emulate his brother, Armin, who won on the course last year.

The women have a super-G race today and a giant slalom tomorrow. The men, in addition to Saturday's downhill, have a super-G on Sunday with a possibility of a super-G or slalom for women as a replacement for a race cancelled at Lake Louise, in Canada.

Weather conditions have already caused the cancellation of races in Tignes, France, as well as Lake Louise. With the season barely under way, the women are already four races behind schedule.