Schönried/Gstaad (SUI). Another perfect day on the “Horneggli” slope where the season’s fourth Snowboard Cross race of the 1999/2000 NOKIA Snowboard FIS World Cup was held today. Australia’s Zeke Steggall and Carmen Ranigler from Italy won the exciting head-to-head competitions.

Zeke Steggall from downunder had already been the fastest on time in the qualification race and really wanted it today. After bad luck in the season’s first two races he proved that he is on the way up again already with a third place just two weeks ago and finally made it to the very top today, his second-ever World Cup win. “I was feeling very good this morning,” he said, “and when I won the qualification this kind of gave me the kick for the finals. On this course you always had to work. It was pretty close at the start all the time and then there was this big crash in the semi final. I think I got up again first and there was no time to lose. You had to work all the way and couldn’t just relax. I’m glad I’m back on top here, I was dreaming of it when I was on the chair up after the first run in the finals… unbelievable that I made it.”Austria’s Alex Koller finished second and obviously felt relieved: “This is my first time on the podium after almost two years at the 1998 World Cup finals. I’d loved to win this race, it just worked fine from the very beginning, but I don’t want to be unmodest, second place is fine. It’s really important for me also with regard to the World Cup since my goal is to finish top three overall at the end of the season. The course was really nice and you didn’t have to slow down anywhere and this is what makes the SBX that attractive.” Thomas Ligonnet from France finished third in his second-ever FIS World Cup race while Germany’s Markus Ebner just missed a medal by ending up fourth.Joni Vastamäki from Finland, one of the contenders for a win, was involved in the crash in the semi final and could not continue the race. The preliminary diagnosis was strained ligaments but Vastamäki should be all right to return to the circuit shortly.France Sylvian Duclos is further leading the SBX standings although he was not competing today, same as Pontus Stahlkloo from Sweden who takes second place in the standings so far. Steggall moved up to third.

In an exciting final Carmen Ranigler from Italy took her first-ever gold by crossing the finish line just a couple of centimetres ahead of Austria’s Manuela Riegler. “I already tried to attack after the start but the course was very narrow and you couldn’t pass anyone. Therefore I was waiting for the open section right before the finish and it worked. I even didn’t like the course a lot when I did it for the first time these days, it seemed to be too narrow with one obstacle right after the other but it looks like it was a good one for me…” Manuela Riegler almost felt Ranigler at her neck when entering the finish section but could not hinder her taking the win. “This was really tight,” the Austrian said, “I just heard her being behind, really close. At the last jump I tried to push my board but she just passed me and there was nothing left I could do at that time. But I’m really happy with second.” Marie Laissus from France finished third ahead of Germany’s Sandra Farmand.Laissus is further leading the standings ahead of Ranigler and Julie Pomagalski from France who finished sixth today.

Grächen, Switzerland, is scheduled next featuring the season’s fifth Halfpipe next Saturday.