Mon, Feb 06, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Rienda and Paerson share victory

AP , OFTERSCHWANG, GERMANY

Spain's Maria Jose Rienda, right, and Sweden's Anja Paerson share first place in a World Cup giant-slalom event in Ofterschwang, Germany, on Saturday.

PHOTO: AP

Maria Jose Rienda of Spain and Anja Paerson of Sweden finished in a dead heat on Saturday to share victory in the final women's World Cup giant slalom before the Olympics.

Both went down an icy slope in 2 minutes, 28 seconds, 0.09 seconds ahead of third-place Julia Mancuso of the US. Rienda now has three wins in the season's seven giant slaloms, and Paerson has two.

Paerson, who leads the giant slalom standings, won the 32nd World Cup of her career and sixth this season. The 24-year-old is a contender for several golds at the Turin Games, which start Friday, after collecting wins in four different disciplines.

"My goal is to go there and have fun," said Paerson, who has never bettered her giant slalom Olympic silver. "I want to be Olympic champion."

Paerson called Rienda the favorite for gold after the Spaniard claimed her second giant slalom in two days. The Spaniard did it in style, making up a 0.10 deficit on Paerson with a burst down the final hill.

"When I crossed the finish line, everybody was yelling -- I didn't believe it at the moment," Rienda said.

The 30-year-old Spaniard, who has picked up all five of her World Cup wins the past two years, accepted the role of Olympic favorite.

"I'm happy, very happy. I know it's difficult, but I'm hoping to race [like this] at the Olympics," Rienda said.

The penultimate World Cup downhill of the season was canceled because of heavy fog on Saturday, strengthening Michael Walchhofer's chances of defending his season title.

The World Cup discipline title hopes of rivals Fritz Strobl and Daron Rahlves took a blow with only one downhill remaining this season.

The scratched race was also the last men's World Cup race before the Winter Games begin in Turin on Friday, and the cancellation meant several skiers lost their last chance to qualify for their national Olympic team.

The International Ski Federation said the downhill will not be rescheduled. The only remaining World Cup races for the men this season are technical events following the Olympics, on gentler slopes in Japan and South Korea where there is no possibility of a downhill.

"This is done," race director Guenter Hujara said. "There is no chance to reschedule it because we have no more dates open. There is no better answer. We tried our best today."

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