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October 25, 2009

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Poutiainen spoils Austrian show

Finn Tanja Poutiainen beat local favorite Kathrin Zettel by the slimmest of margins to spoil the show for Austria in the opening giant slalom of the season on the Rettenbach glacier in Soeldon yesterday.

Poutiainen won in a combined time of two minutes 24.96 seconds, leaving last year's winner Zettel just 0.01 adrift. Italy's Denise Karbon, fastest in the first run, faltered in the afternoon leg to finish third, 0.32 behind.

To add to the Austrian team's woes, the first women's race of the season was marred by a nasty-looking knee injury suffered by Nicole Hosp.

The 2007 World Cup winner crashed in the morning run and was flown to hospital in nearby Innsbruck, where she had ligament surgery on her right knee.

Hosp lost control on the upper section of the giant slalom course and slid downhill headfirst for 50 meters before coming to a stop.

The 2006-07 overall winner broke the upper part of her shinbone and tore ligaments in her left knee in a crash in January in Zagreb, Croatia.

Yesterday, the favorites for the overall World Cup crystal globe were below their best, with a long way to go before their main goal of the season, the Winter Olympics in Vancouver in February.

American Lindsey Vonn continued to struggle in the only skiing event in which she has not yet won a World Cup race.

The 2008 and 2009 overall winner lost too much time in the first run and finally had to settle for ninth place, 1.39 behind.

Slalom world champion Maria Riesch of Austria, Vonn's chief rival, was never in contention and finished a dismal 18th, 1.94 adrift.

Poutiainen, who has now won nine World Cup races, was only third after the morning session but she was the most solid on a deteriorating course in the afternoon.

"This is a dream start to the season," she said.

"I know what racing is about and that helps in the first race," said the Finn, who is beginning her 12th season. "It's a good way to start and know that everything is working and you've done the right training."

Zettel had the consolation of finishing on the podium of the season curtain-raiser for the third year in succession.

"To finish on a podium at home, after injury problems and after being only fourth in the first leg is a great result," she said.

A men's giant slalom is scheduled for today on the Rettenbach, then the circuit resumes on Poutiainen's home course in Levi, Finland, with men's and women's slalom races November 14-15.

"We've only been training giant slalom the last couple weeks, so now I have to find my slalom skis," Poutiainen said.


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