Skiing: Rey riding high as lone trainer

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DENIS REY, intent on proving there is life outside the national squad, maintained his promising early season form with the fastest time in practice yesterday for two World Cup downhills in Val Gardena, Italy.

Rey, who has had to train on his own since he lost his place in the French national squad, made excellent use of conditions he later described as perfect. 'The course suits a smooth, technical skier like me,' said Rey, who has never finished higher than fourth in a World Cup race.

He was fastest in a training session for the downhill at the French resort of Val d'Isere last weekend, but his ability to reproduce that form in competition was not clear as the race itself had to be abandoned.

Franz Heinzer has proved himself over the course and distance by winning the Val Gardena downhill for the past two seasons. After the false start of Val d'Isere, Heinzer will be opening the defence of his World Cup downhill crown this weekend. He was not very quick in practice, saying the snow was too soft for his liking.

The organisers attempted to compensate for time lost to Wednesday's bad weather by staging two practice runs. The second of them had the same start time as today's race, and A J Kitt drew confidence from setting the fastest time on that one, although he was slower than Rey's morning run.

Gunther Mader, the Olympic downhill bronze medallist at Albertville, was not so happy about making two runs. The Austrian strained ligaments in a fall on the second and will have a check-up in a clinic in Innsbruck before deciding whether to race tomorrow.

MEN'S WORLD CUP DOWNHILL PRACTICE (Val Gardena, It) First session: 1 D Rey (Fr) 2min 1.64sec; 2 T Moe (US) 2:01.81min; 3 AJ Kitt (US) 2:02.07; 4 A Duvillard (Fr) 2:02.86; 5 W Perathoner (It) 2:03.04; 6 P Ortlieb (Aut) 2:03.21; 7 D Mahrer (Swit) 2:03.35; 8 L Stock (Aut) 2:03.37; 9= P Rzehak (Aut) 2:03.58; 9= L Alphand (Fr) 2:03.58. Second session: 1 Kitt 2:02.28; 2 M Girardelli (Lux) 2:02.53; 3 B Kernen (Swit) 2:02.67; 4 Mahrer 2:02.92; 5 Ortlieb 2:02.98; 6 Moe 2:03.01; 7 Perathoner 2:03.05; 8 Rey 2:03.19; 9= B Hudson (US) 2:03.20; 9= C Fivel (Fr) 2:03.20.