Sun, Dec 21, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Heel takes advantage of an early start to win super-G

AP , VAL GARDENA, ITALY

Sweden’s Anja Paerson clears a gate during the slalom portion of the women’s World Cup super-combined in St Moritz, Switzerland, on Friday.

PHOTO: EPA

Werner Heel of Italy took advantage of an early start number to win a windy World Cup super-G on Friday that opened a weekend of four World Cup races in the Italian Dolomites.

Producing the best super-G result of his career, Heel covered the Saslong course in 1 minute, 35.04 seconds. Didier Defago of Switzerland finished second, 0.43 seconds behind, and Patrik Jaerbyn of Sweden was another 0.02 seconds back in third.

The results were affected by a headwind that slowed down the later starters, including several pre-race favorites. Austria’s Hermann Maier was ninth and retained his lead in the super-G standings, while Switzerland’s Didier Cuche was 10th and Bode Miller of the US 17th.

“Skiing is a strange sport, every day and every race is different. There are so many factors involved,” said the blonde-haired Heel, who comes from Alto Adige, a predominantly German-speaking area in northern Italy. “Before the race, I didn’t even think I would finish in the top 20. I had some luck today, but the course layout also helped me since there weren’t that many turns and the wind really affected the speed of the later starters.”

The wind picked up after the first six starters or so and at one point the banner hanging over the finish line was billowing up toward the slope.

Heel started third and the other first five starters also finished within the top six.

The 39-year-old Jaerbyn improved his record as the oldest skier to finish on a World Cup podium. It was only the third top-three finish of the Swede’s lengthy career.

“I’m sure it was luck too, but at the same time, if I don’t take advantage of the luck given me it doesn’t matter,” Jaerbyn said. “I feel like I took advantage of my start number.”

■WOMEN’S SUPER-COMBINED

AP, ST MORITZ, SWITZERLAND

Anja Paerson of Sweden won a World Cup super-combined event on Friday after defending her lead from the super-G race by posting the second-best time in the slalom.

Paerson clocked 44.03 seconds in the slalom for a combined time of 1 minute, 41.87 seconds. Austria’s Nicole Hosp had the best slalom time to finish second, 1.12 seconds behind, climbing from 17th place after the super-G. Fabienne Suter of Switzerland was third in 1 minute, 43.4 seconds.

Defending overall champion Lindsey Vonn was 14th in super-G, but skied out early in the slalom. The 24-year-old American still keeps her lead in the overall World Cup standings after nine races. She has 438 points, 38 points clear of Finland’s Tanja Poutiainen who did not race. Maria Riesch of Germany is third, 60 points behind Vonn after a fourth-place finish. Paerson moves up to fifth in the standings with 298 points.

Paerson said she skied smartly to preserve the lead and claim her first World Cup victory of the season — and the 39th of her career.

“I just tried to do a smooth run, nothing special,” she said. “I feel very rested compared to La Molina [last weekend] where I was really tired.”

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