LIENZ, Austria — Sondra Van Ert (Ketchum, Idaho) rode her way into the history books Friday at the inaugural FIS World Snowboard Championships in Lienz, Austria, by winning the bronze medal in the first-ever FIS World Snowboard Championships giant slalom competition. Women’s World Cup leader Karine Ruby of France won the gold, with Austria’s Manuela Riegler taking silver.

“This one meant more than anything,” said a tearful Van Ert as she celebrated in the finish area. “I’m so excited about getting up on the podium in this event more than anything else in my career.”

After a near-fall in the first run, Van Ert thought her day was finished. “I nearly ran into the fence up top,” she explained. “When I saw that fence coming at me I thought, ‘Well, my day’s over!’ But I pulled through it — I wasn’t going to let my day end that easily!” The mistake cost her time, but she still stood in fourth after the first run, behind first-run leader Marion Posch of Italy, Austria’s Birgit Herbert and Germany’s Amalie Kulawik.

It took a superb second-run effort from Ruby, who sat in seventh position after the first run, to capture the win. As the first-run leaders came down the mountain (in reverse-15 order for the second run), Van Ert was nervous. “I couldn’t watch them!” said Van Ert. “I didn’t feel confident in that run and I didn’t think it would happen at all.”

“I’m just so happy — I wanted this one so bad,” said Van Ert, who rides out of Sun Valley, Idaho on Hot snowboards, with Rossignol boots and Bomber bindings. Van Ert is a former U.S. Ski Team athlete who skied on the World Cup alpine circuit for three years a decade ago. “This is amazing — I never did this in skiing, and this is the same medal I wanted in skiing, so it’s a big deal to me. At the beginning of the second run, I was thinking, ‘Don’t play your regular tricks and crash!’ I kept trying to think, ‘You had your problem on the first run, you don’t need to do it on this run.’”

Teammates Stacia Hookum (Edwards, Colo.) finished in 12th place, with Lynn Ott (Bend, Ore.) finishing 17th. “My second run was better than my first,” said Hookum, who was 14th after the first run. In a mishap on her first run, Ott suffered a minor sprain to her right thumb, but had no problems with the injury during her second run.

Competition continues on Saturday at the World Snowboard Championships, with the men’s giant slalom. U.S. men have performed well in World Cup giant slalom competition this season, collecting three World Cup wins from Mike Jacoby (Hood River, Ore.), one win from Jeff Greenwood (Granby, Conn. – one win), and podium finishes from Tom Lyman (Whitefish, Mont.), Rob Berney (Whitefish) and Steve Persons (Whitefish).

WORLD SNOWBOARD CHAMPIONSHIPS — WOMEN’S GS

Lienz, Austria — Friday, Jan. 26, 1996

1. Karine Ruby, FRA, 2:11.91 seconds; 2. Manuela Riegler, AUT, 2:12.50; 3. Sondra Van Ert, Ketchum, Idaho, 2:12.87; 4. Ursula Fingerlos, AUT, 2:12.93; 5. Birgit Herbert, AUT, 2:13.28; 6. Amalie Kulawik, GER, 2:13.49; 7. Marion Posch, ITA, 2:13.69; 8. Lidia Trettel, ITA, 2:16.82; 9. Maria Pichler, AUT, 2:18.81; 10. Dorothee Fournier, FRA, 2:18.85; OTHER U.S. RIDERS: 12. Stacia Hookum, Edwards, Colo., 2:20.08; 17. Lynn Ott, Bend, Ore., 2:28.83.