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Hoelzl stuns field in GS

KATHRIN Hoelzl of Germany won the giant slalom at the world championships yesterday after all of the pre-race favorites faltered.

Hoelzl won in 2 minutes, 3.49 seconds over two runs down the steep Bellevarde course in Val d'Isere, France. Tina Maze of Slovenia finished second, 0.09 seconds behind, and Tanja Poutiainen of Finland was third, 0.54 back.

The 24-year-old Hoelzl has never won on the World Cup tour, with her best finish second in a giant slalom in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, at the end of the 2006-07 season. She stood fourth after the opening run, 0.68 seconds behind leader Kathrin Zettel of Austria.

"When I looked at the time I thought it would be enough for a medal but not the gold," Hoelzl said. "I just let my skis run."

Hoelzl is the first German giant slalom world champion ?? male or female ?? since Maria Epple won on home snow in Garmisch-Partenkirchen in 1978.

"I didn't even dare at first to look," Hoelzl, who won Germany's first gold here, added. "The second run was much more difficult than the first. It was brutal."

Zettel, who won the super-combi last week, made a big mistake at the beginning of her second run and finished sixth. Poutiainen stood second after the first leg but took a few wide turns in her second trip down.

Maze moved up from 15th after the opening leg with the fastest second run.

Denise Karbon of Italy finished fourth and Michael Kirchgasser of Austria was fifth.

Zettel has won three of the six World Cup giant slaloms this season and holds a one-point lead over Poutiainen in the discipline standings.

Poutiainen has also won three silvers at worlds and Olympics, but never gold.

The Bellevarde is the steepest course the women have raced on all season. Coaches initially were angling for the race to be moved to the speed course, but fresh snow softened the track and slowed it down to make it manageable.

Still, more snowfall during the opening run made for deteriorating conditions and low visibility. Lights lining the course were turned on, but that didn't help much.

Conditions improved only somewhat for the second leg.

Anja Paerson, a two-time world champion in GS, was ninth in the opening run, then dropped down to 15th after her second trip down.

In the first run, Swiss teenager Lara Gut was the only skier faster than Zettel through the first checkpoint before she missed a gate halfway down.

Also in the opening leg, Manuela Moelgg was only 0.11 behind Zettel through the first split before the Italian lost control and fell.

Defending champion Nicole Hosp, racing for the first time since injuring herself five weeks ago, struggled all the way down in her first run, crossing more than four seconds behind Zettel. She finished 23rd.

Maria Riesch of Germany also had a rough day, missing a gate in the second leg and hiking back up to place 28th, more than 11 seconds behind Maze.


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