Tanja Poutiainen misses out by 0.01 seconds on giant slalom win in St. Moritz
Kalle Palander's comeback continues to stutter
Alpine skier Tanja Poutiainen came tantalisingly close to recording her eleventh career World Cup victory in St. Moritz on Sunday, losing out by one hundredth of a second to Tessa Worley of France in the giant slalom.
A wobble midway through her second descent probably cost her the win, but Poutiainen has made an excellent start to the new season, and the 30-year-old seemed unruffled at having to make do with 2nd place on the podium.
She is currently third in the FIS World Cup giant slalom standings (led by Worley) and also 3rd in the overall competition, although this latter position is unlikely to last, since Poutiainen does not take part in the downhill or super-G events on the circuit.
Maria Riesch of Germany (19th on Sunday) leads the overall table by a wide margin, her position cemented by a brace of downhill victories earlier this month.
Poutiainen started her second run from 3rd place, after the proceedings had had to be held up for some time as the wind rose after the competitors had gone down the hill once.
She made only one mistake, which obliged her briefly to experiment with skiing on one leg, and the chances are that if the Finn had kept her balance Worley might not have been celebrating her second successive win.
It was the French girl's fourth World Cup victory, and came two weeks after a win in the same event in Aspen, where Poutiainen could do no better than 10th.
Tina Maze of Slovenia was third in St. Moritz, gaining her first podium finish of the new season.
So far this season Tanja Poutiainen has been third in both of her slalom starts, and has finished 2nd, 4th, and 10th in the giant slalom.
Her colleague Sanni Leinonen had a high start-number (58th), and could not quite parlay it into a chance of a second run.
Leinonen finished 35th, some 0.20 seconds outside the time that would have been required.
Over in Val d'Isère, Kalle Palander's comeback to the sport after a long layoff owing to injury continued to stutter, although he did manage to collect his first World Cup points of the season.
Palander found the giant slalom course on Saturday a tricky exercise, and two rather nondescript descents left him in 26th place.
This brought five points, but little personal satisfaction. In fact he seemed more concerned about the fact that his leg was more painful than at any time this year, possibly a product of his recent flight back from racing in the United States.
Palander's fate was sealed on Saturday by a first run that left him more than three seconds off the pace.
In Sunday's slalom, Palander blew any chance of improving on his first run by missing a gate halfway down the second descent.
He gamely went back up the hill and rounded the gate properly, and still managed to finish 23rd despite the delay, largely owing to the moderately encouraging fact that he was actually the fastest man on the course over the opening stages of the second run.
The result brought him another eight World Cup points, which do have more than a symbolic value - as a returning skier with no points in the bank, Palander is saddled with a high starting number (he went down 39th on Sunday), and he needs the points to improve this state of affairs.
Ted Ligety of the United States won his second successive giant slalom on the Saturday, and Sunday's winner was Marcel Hirscher of Austria.
Finland's Marcus Sandell crashed out on his first run to continue a rather dismal start to the season.
It was Sandell's third DNF of the season, and in Beaver Creek last week he failed to qualify for the second round.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Kalle Palander expects to do well in opening event of Alpine ski season, after a break of nearly three years (11.10.2010)
FIS World Cup: Poutiainen on the podium, but little else for Finns to cheer in Levi (15.11.2010)
Tanja Poutiainen official site
FIS: Kalle Palander
FIS: Tanja Poutiainen