Norwegians Lead World Cup Slalom
YONG PYONG, South Korea (AP) _ Give a lot of credit to the guy with the funny red hair for Sunday’s Norwegian sweep of a World Cup slalom.
``The reason we’re doing so well is because of Hans-Petter Buraas,″ said race winner Ole Kristian Furuseth, who outraced teammates Finn Christian Jagge and Tom Stiansen to win the final event of the first-ever World Cup weekend in Korea.
``He has given us great momentum by winning the (Olympic) gold medal and pushing us to our limits in training because he was very fast,″ Furuseth said.
Ironically, Buraas, he of the fright wig red hair, lasted only three gates in the morning run before going off the course.
Furuseth, who got the silver medal behind Buraas in last month’s Olympic slalom in Japan, got his first victory since 1995 and the eighth of his career with a two-run time of 1 minute, 39.15 seconds. He led by .54 seconds after the first run, in which he was the first racer on the course, and extended the margin to .67 overall.
``Starting No. 1 was an advantage for me because the course was perfect for me,″ Furuseth said. ``It became choppy for the later starters.″
The victory continued a string of success for Furuseth in the Far East. He won his first World Cup race in 1989 at Shiga Kogen, Japan, site of last month’s Olympic race, nd also won that season at Furano, Japan.
Jagge, second in the morning, was second overall in 1:39.82, .39 better than Stiansen, last year’s world championship gold medalist who was third in the first heat as well.
Jagge, who had a season-opening second place at Park City, Utah and a victory at Sestriere, Italy, has struggled recently, going without a top-10 finish in the last five slaloms.
``Maybe I wasn’t focused enough. Maybe I thought it would be easy″ after starting the season so well,″ the racer nicknamed ``Finken″ said. ``It was important for me to get back on the podium after some disappointing results.″
Stiansen, who lives near his close friend Furuseth in Oslo, said he can see hiw own future when he looks at his teammate, at 31 four years his senior.
``We train together and he inspires me a lot, being our veteran,″ Stiansen said. ``He’s a a great example. I’m 27 and I can hope to win for the next four years by looking at him.″
Kiminobu Kimura of Japan missed his second podium of the season by a mere .16 seconds, settling for fourth in 1:40.37. Fifth after the morning run, Kimura improved one spot by getting past Austria’s Thomas Stangassinger, the World Cup slalom points leader. Stangassinger finished in 1:40.59.
At that, Stangassinger gained a little breathing room in the slalom standings, since his closest pursuer, teammate Thomas Sykora, was only seventh. Stangassinger has 488 points to Sykora’s 476 with only one slalom remaining this season.
Buraas remained third in the slalom standings with 340, followed by Furuseth (296), Kimura (292) and Jagge (285).
Furuseth, in his 12th World Cup season, actually won the race in the morning when, as the first racer down the course, he completed the 573-meter course in 48.33 seconds, a healthy .54 seconds better than Jagge, the 1992 Olympic slalom gold medalist.
Stiansen, an unlucky fourth in the Olympics behind Buraas, Furuseth and Sykora, was third in the morning, but the deficit of .94 seconds meant that the two Norwegians ahead of him would battle privately for the victory.
The key to both runs was executing at the top of the course. Any mistake over the first 20 seconds robbed the racer of the speed necessary to negotiate the lower flat section.
Matt Grosjean of Aliso Viejo, Calif., the only American in the field, battled through the pain of a swollen and blistered foot to place 26th in 1:42.00. His gutty second run of 50.77 seconds was .05 faster than the winner.
The top North American was Canada’s Thomas Grandi, who was 13th in 1:41.21.