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Compagnoni appears uncatchable in giant slalom

November 22, 1997

PARK CITY, Utah (AP) _ Deborah Compagnoni is skiing divinely, so Alexandra Meissnitzer was happy to be the best among mere mortals.

``She is so good she’s skiing like a god,″ Meissnitzer said after finishing second to the Italian champion in a women’s World Cup giant slalom on Friday. The margin of 3.41 seconds was among the largest ever in the 31-year history of a series in which only hundredths of a second routinely separate racers.

Although Compagnoni didn’t match the margin record of 5.20 seconds set by Switzerland’s Marie Therese Nadig in 1979, Friday’s victory was still one for the record book. It was her sixth straight GS triumph _ seventh, including her gold medal in the World Championships _ the most ever by a woman. Sweden’s Ingemar Stenmark set the men’s record of 15, 14 World Cups plus the Olympic title, from 1978 to 1980.

Compagnoni comes from the land of Alberto Tomba, but she’s nothing like the outgoing and sometimes outrageous ``La Bomba.″ She smiles shyly when someone suggests she’s supernatural.

``When the conditions are really demanding, a lot of people make mistakes,″ Compagnoni said. ``I am in top form and I can really dominate my skis and keep in a good line. Maybe that’s why I won by such a large margin.

``Of course, it’s nice to hear compliments from other racers, because they know what it takes. Now it looks easy, but I had trouble also. There were times I was second or third behind people who looked unbeatable.″

Compagnoni won in the simplest way possible: post the best time in each run and collect the winner’s check.

She won the morning heat in 1 minute, 26.69 seconds, a healthhy .98 faster than Germany’s Martina Ertl, and took the afternoon run in 1:25.91. Meissnitzer had the second-best afternoon time, but her 1:26.92 was more than a second behind the Italian, whose combined clocking was 2:52.60.

``It was strange on the first run. I felt uncomfortable and made some errors that are unusual for me,″ Compagnoni said. ``I was surprised at my time. Because I was able to see the course better on the second run, I was able to be more aggressive. When you are passive, you are unable to control the difficulties.″

Meissnitzer’s time was 2:56.01 and third-place Andrine Flemmen of Norway finished in 2:56.46.

Meissnitzer was shocked to gain a place on the awards podium after finishing only 13th in the morning. Until Compagnoni came along to show who was boss, Meissnitzer’s time withstood the challenge of 11 competitors. When she realized she would have her best finish in two years, she hugged her coaches and waved at friends in the grandstand.

``I don’t care how far behind her I am. It’s still worth 80 points and that’s most important,″ Meissnitzer said.

Compagnoni’s 100 points gave her 214 for the season and a 44-point lead in the overall standings over Ertl, who settled for sixth on Friday. Meissnitzer’s 80 increased her total to 156 and moved her into third place overall.

It was a frustrating day for the United States, which had none of its six entrants ski fast enough to join the field of 30 that made the second run. Best among the Americans was Caroline Lalive of Steamboat Springs, Colo., 37th in 1:31.51. She missed the cut by .37 seconds.

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