Riesch scorches the hills

WORLD CUP SKIING: Maria Riesch of Germany set the best time on the Krummholz slope in training and then succeeded in winning her first victory in the World Cup


Sun, Feb 01, 2004 - Page 22

Maria Riesch of Germany won a women's downhill Friday for her first World Cup victory, and US skier Kirsten Clark crashed badly and was airlifted to a hospital with knee and wrist injuries that a team official said would likely sideline her for the rest of the season.

Riesch covered the Krummholz slope, one of the longest and most demanding on the women's circuit, in 1 minute, 39.30 seconds after already setting the best time in training.

"I am happy and surprised at the same time. It was tough, very tough, but everything worked out for me today," the 19-year-old said. "I told myself today to keep cool and take it easy. I felt I was quick, but I did certainly not expect to finish top."

Italy's Isolde Kostner was second in 1:39.76 and Austria's Renate Goetschl finished third in 1:39.78 to keep her lead in the downhill standings.

Hilde Gerg of Germany placed fourth, ahead of Bryna McCarty of the US, who recorded her first top 10 result.

Clark had chosen a direct line to the Pistenflotte jump and fell flat-faced shortly after landing. She slid down the slope at high speed and got caught with her skis in the safety fence.

"She suffered ligament damage to both knees and a displaced fracture of her right wrist," US ski team spokesman Tom Clark said. "She is undergoing surgery in Salzburg at this time for the wrist.

"She will return home for evaluation and likely surgery on the knees. The left knee appears to be more serious," Clark said. "It's reasonable to assume that she is out for the season."

The 27-year-old skier from Raymond, Maine, was runner-up in the super giant slalom at the 2003 world championships. She was the third US skier to crash at the same spot Friday, joining Lindsay Kildow and Libby Ludlow.

Clark's crash was the third bad accident on the slope in three days. Germany's Regina Haeusl and Austria's Ingrid Rumpfhuber were injured during practice and are sidelined for the rest of the season.

Goetschl said the slope wasn't impossible to master but the high speeds skiers reach there may lead to accidents.

"Because our downhills are not as complicated as the men's, we can attack on every turn," she said.