Simoncelli grabs first giant slalom victory


Sun, Mar 05, 2006 - Page 23

Italy's Davide Simoncelli raced to his first World Cup giant slalom victory of the season Saturday, beating countryman Massimiliano Blardone by 0.08 seconds at Yongpyong Ski Resort.

Davide Simoncelli, second in December in Alta Badia, had a two-run time of 2:13.63. He failed to complete the giant slalom in the Olympics at Sestriere.

"I'm happy. At Sestriere, I did not do so good, so today was perfect," he said.

Simoncelli was aggressive Saturday in the second run.

"We pushed it in the steeper, and in the steeper I won the race," he said.

Norway's Aksel Lund Svindel finished third in 2:13.83. Sweden's Fredrik Nyberg was fourth, followed by Austria's Benjamin Raich and Canada's Thomas Grandi.

Others werent so lucky. Nineteen skiers, including all three Koreans, failed to complete the afternoon run after running foul of its wave-like inclines and daunting initial drop.

Blardone leads the giant slalom standings after six races with 344 points. Raich is second with 331, followed by Nyberg (274) and Simoncelli (269). Blardone leads the giant slalom standings after six races with 344 points.

Simoncelli's solid performance in the windy conditions Saturday did little to salvage his overall World Cup standings, leaving him at 27th with 269 points, 841 behind leader Raich.

Austrian Michael Walchhofer takes second spot overall with 831 points despite struggling to make 20th Saturday. Bode Miller of the United States, who did not travel to South Korea, trails with 748.

Saturday's race was decided in the final seconds, with several skiers blasting in to steal the lead.

Svindel thought he had it all wrapped up until seconds from the end, when the Italian blew in to upset the leaderboard.

"I had almost half a second down to the fourth so they skied very good. Then you get beaten. That's the way it is," he said.

While the sun shone on the Italians, it wasnt a good day to be American. Turin gold medallist Ted Ligety was the only competitor not to start the first leg and Daron Rahlves bailed out of the second. Erik Schlopy clawed his way from 19th to 4th before he was eventually relegated to 8th.

Both Svindel and Simoncelli praised the perfect conditions. Three days of light snow until Thursday and a week of water injections left the course as good as it gets in South Korea, bolstering Pyeongchangs hopes of hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics.

The 50 skiers get another shot on the Rainbow 1 course Sunday before the eighth and final giant slalom world cup is held in Sweden.

Olympic bronze-medalist Hermann Maier, who finished 23rd Saturday, said he may be suffering from a post-Games letdown.

"I lost a little after the Olympics. It was the biggest goal for me this season -- now it's maybe a bit more apres-ski," Maier said.