Stellar Nef wins women’s giant slalom gold


Sonja Nef of Switzerland ended her title drought with a commanding win in the women’s giant slalom on the penultimate day of the Alpine Skiing World Championships here on Friday.

Nef won in a two-leg time of 209.01, comfortably ahead of silver medalist Karen Putzer of Italy in 200.11 with Anja Paerson of Sweden taking the bronze in 200.52.

Nef underlined her dominance of the discipline as she wrapped up her sixth win of the season. It was a superb performance from the 28-year-old as she mastered difficult conditions on a bumpy, rutted course.

She also had to overcome a 55 minute delay while organizers and volunteers prepared the piste which had cut up badly after the first run.

But while Nef celebrated by grabbing a Swiss flag in the winners area, there was misery for Austria as Renate Gotschl missed a gate and failed to finish for the third time at these championships.

Title-holder Alexandra Meissnitzer also failed to finish as she blew out on the top half of the course.

Austrian veteran Anita Wachter failed to finish the first leg as the 33-year-old bade a sad farewell to her home crowd.

Switzerland might have had a second podium finish, but Corinne Ray Bellet who had stood sixth after the first run, lost a ski early in the second run.

Two years ago in Vail the 28-year-old Nef could only manage 11th in the giant slalom, three places down on her 1997 showing at Sestrieres.

Her World Cup giant slalom wins at Tignes, Are and Sestrieres last season and her maiden success in the slalom at Sestrieres in 1996 all came after she had overcome a series of problems and operations to repair torn ligaments in her right knee in 1989 when she had barely begun her career.

The bad fortune did not end there as ankle problems followed a 1996 crash at Are while she missed out in the 1998 Winter Games at Shiga Kogen in Japan after hooking a gate.

Nef overcame the injuries through a variety of recipes recommended by a Swiss specialist – including injections of shark oil. She then took on a coach to work on her mental strength and it has finally paid off.

This season the blonde from the town of Grub has threw down the gauntlet in winning five giant slaloms to snatch the world title in the discipline and take her overall win total to nine.