Valle Nevado (Chile). Exciting head-to-head duels were on when the first Parallel Giant Slalom as part of the 2001/2002 Nokia Snowboard FIS World Cup was held today at Valle Nevado, Chile. Dejan Kosir from Slovenia and Swiss rider Steffi von Siebenthal took the wins.

After two beautiful days the sunshine had disappeared from Valle Nevado and the visibility was a bit difficult due to diffuse light but otherwise the riders faced great conditions for the season’s first Parallel Giant Slalom. However, it turned out as a surprise that in both the mens’ and womens’ race none of the top ranked riders from the qualification made it to the podium finally.

Austria’s Felix Stadler for instance had smoked the course for first place but was then eliminated in the first final round. Second ranked Mathieu Bozzetto from France made it to the quarter finals but was then had to leave it with Dejan Kosir from Slovenia by only two hundrets of a second. The latter kept on, won the semi final against Alexander Koller from Austria and then faced Germany’s Markus Ebner in the final heat. There, Kosir won the first run by 52 hundreths of a second and although the German tried hard in the second run and was the first to cross the finish line, Kosir still had the advantage of 13 hundrets of a second and took the win.

“It was a very tough race with bad visibility,” he said, “and from what we could see already in the first runs most of the riders are in good shape already this early in the season. I felt good and could put in some nice attacking runs so I’m really happy that I made it finally. I felt relieved when I made it to the top 16 since this is the confirmation for my participation at the Olympics and I can keep on focussing on the next races now.”

Markus Ebner had to finish top eight to secure his ticket to Salt Lake City. When he knocked out Italy’s Walter Feichter in the first final round he fixed it and finally pulled second. “When I advanced to the quarter finals there was nothing to lose anymore,” he said. “I had a couple of good runs which made me confident so I really wanted to win. Then I kind of slept through the first run against Dejan and took a lot of risk in the second to close the gap but there were still those 13 hundrets… Anyway, I’m glad with second place, it could have hardly been any better.”

Stephen Copp from Sweden and Alexander Koller faced each other in the duel for third place. Copp opened up the gap by 11 hundrets of a second in the first run and had to leave the second run to the Austrian but he finally made it to third place by a total of nine hundrets of a second. “It has been a very long time that something like this happened,” Copp said, “it really feels great and I started to miss that feeling… The snow was pretty good all day and I liked the course although the two tracks were pretty uneven, but they both had their advantage so they ended up ok.”

Koller, mainly specialized in Snowboard Cross, might start to take the Olympics into consideration after finishing fourth today: “My goal was to make it to the finals, I felt good and suddenly was among the top four, my best result in this discipline. So far, I didn’t take the Olympics into consideration due to my results and a lot of strong Austrians. Now I could imagine to keep working on such a goal but my main focus will remain Snowboard Cross.”

Swiss rider Steffi von Siebenthal had first knocked out Lidia Trettel from Italy, then won over the US riders Rosey Fletcher and Lisa Kosglow to meet Germany’s Heidi Renoth in the final heat. Winning both runs there she claimed the win. “It was just great,” she said, “Chile is such a nice country… The duel against Rosey was the toughest I had today. When I had missed the last gate before the finish I thought that was it but then could make it up in the second run and could pick it up again ¿ that’s the thing about PGS, you always have to put everything from the beginning till the end.”

Heidi Rennoth pulled second and was overwhelmed: “I’m so happy,” she said, “it has been such a long time that I had made it to the finals. I was feeling good in training and knew I could do it. My goal was top eight to qualify for the Olympics, it’s more than great that I made it to second place in addition. I had some circulatory disorders but maybe this was good since I didn’t think too much about the race then…”

Lisa Kosglow won both runs against French rider Julie Pomagalski in the small final and finished third. “I’m really excited,” she said, “I absolutely love Chile and I kind of had a hard last couple of seasons so this is a really big result for me.”

The Valle Nevado World Cup will be concluded with the Parallel Slalom tomorrow.