Heavenly, CA Jan. 22--Defending World Cup champion and reigningWorld Championships gold medalist Ann Battelle (Steamboat Springs, CO)responded to some unexpected sunshine and created some sunshine of herown Saturday, winning the moguls event at the Sprint U.S. FreestyleGrand National by two-hundredths of a point.
Television coverage of the weekend events will be broadcast at noon ESTJan. 30 (Super Bowl Sunday) on CBS.
Battelle, fifth in the qualifying round, laid down a nearly flawlessfinal run and held off four challengers at Heavenly resort to pickup thefourth win of her career with 25.86 points to 25.84 for Swede MarjaElfman. The victory boosted her to second place for the season by KariTraa of Norway, who was untouchable for the first few events of theseason but had to settle for third place at Heavenly.
"Finally, huh? I skied well, even if I say so," a relieved but beamingBattelle said. "I don't think I had any mistakes. I hit both airs right- double-daffy on the bottom. I'm psyched."
An overnight storm dumped a half-foot of snow on the mountain, changingconditions from the bulletproof snow during training Friday. After thequalifying run, a warm sun came out and softened conditions. "It wasfrozen Friday but we got about six inches during the night, so itwas hard underneath...like skiing on ball bearings. But when the suncame out for finals, it was sweet."
Jillian Vogtli (Ellicotville, NY), coming off surgery that erased her'99 season, was fifth with Shannon Bahrke (Tahoe City, CA) - one of ahandful of local skiers competing in the World Cup - in ninth place.Hannah Hardaway (Moultonborough, NH), also coming back from knee surgerythat knocked her out of the last two seasons - but focusing fulltime nowon skiing after starting classes at Cornell University, was 14th.
In the men's event, it was an exact replay of the 1999 Worlds - aFinnish sweep with Janne Lahtela in first (28.23 points), Lauri Lassilasecond (27.41) and Sami Mustonen third (27.29). The top U.S. skier wasAlex Wilson (Buffalo, NY) in fifth place with 26.97, followed by localskier Travis Ramos eighth and another hometown hero, Travis Cabral - whowon the U.S. moguls title at 15 last March during the Chevy Truck U.S.Championships, in 11th with Evan Dybvig (Tunbridge, VT) 12th.
"Good day all around, especially for Ann - great show for Ann. She cameout focused and had a superb run. It gave all of us a boost," said CoachDon St. Pierre.
He also was pleased with the skiing by his other athletes, who made notonly made finals but, like Hardaway or near-miss 13th place finisherGarth Hager (Bothell, WA), turned-in strong performances. "It was a bigday for Ann, but four guys in finals, two other women up there,too...terrific. I think they all fed off each other. We've still gotsome work to do," St. Pierre said, "but we saw some huge quads, somereally big air - Travis Cabral got so high I thought he was going to hitthe TV boom camera...
"We showed a lot of good things today," the coach added.