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Wiberg, Riegler bid for gold in women’s slalom

February 5, 1997

SESTRIERE, Italy (AP) _ Based on past performance, Sweden’s Pernilla Wiberg and Claudia Riegler of New Zealand were the obvious favorites in tonight’s women’s slalom at the World Alpine Ski Championships.

The Swede won three of seven World Cup slaloms going into the worlds and had a chance to become only the fourth woman in the 60-year history of the worlds to win back-to-back titles in the same speciality.

Wiberg won the slalom title at Sierra Nevada last year.

Riegler, the Austrian-born 20-year-old who races for New Zealand, also has three World Cup slalom wins _ the last in Laax, Switzerland, on Sunday. She’s bidding to give the Kiwis their first medal in the worlds.

Italy’s Deborah Compagnoni, who scored her first World Cup slalom victory this season, is betting on Wiberg while hoping to cause an upset.

``She’s powerful, she’s is good on ice, and the course is very icy,″ said Compagnoni, who will be defending her world giant slalom title Sunday.

Tonight’s two-run event will be the first of four championship slaloms raced at night down the Kandahar course, and the first medal event for the women. FIS, the governing body of world skiing, has made the move to give the Alpine speciality more exposure.

Skiers say the visibility is nearly perfect under the floodlights _ and some have suggested it’s even better than daytime.

``We’re used to training in Sweden at night _ because of the long winters,″ Swedish slalom racer Titti Rodling said. ``Here the lights are so good, it’s better than daylight.″

The course itself is one of the longest in the discipline and sure to be icy and treacherous.

``It’s long and tough,″ said Austrian Elfi Eder, the defending World Cup slalom champion who’s winless this season.

Wiberg, whose record includes two Olympic golds and three world titles, wants the slalom gold. But what she really craves are medals in downhill and super-G.

``Since I have already got medals in gate events and combined, and if I could make a deal, I would love to win a medal in downhill or super-G,″ she said.

Wiberg said there is less pressure in the worlds than in a World Cup race. On the World Cup circuit, she’s bidding for her first season title in slalom and her first overall title.

``I think in the world championships it’s easier to ski than in World Cup because here there are no points, no prize money _ it’s just two runs and you take your chances.″

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