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TOP SKIERS AWAIT WORLD CUP OPENER

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Call it, if you choose, a continuation of the 1992 Winter Olympics. Or, a rerun of the '92 Games. Or, a preview of '94. Or, by its official title - the 7th annual America's Opening.

Fact is, the three-day World Cup event will feature many of the same skiers that left the gates in Albertville, France, earlier this year. And, more than likely they will be familiar faces when the '94 Games open in Lillehammer, Norway, in February of 1994. Like . . .Petra Kronberger of Australia, a double gold medalist; Carole Merle of France, a silver medalist; Pernilla Wiberg of Sweden, a giant slalom gold medalist; Anita Wachters of Austria, a double silver medalist; Annelise Coberger of New Zealand, a silver medalist; and Debrah Compagnoni of Italy, a gold medalist.

And then there's U.S. skier Julie Parisien, who missed an Olympic medal by five-hundredths of a second in the slalom, and teammate Diann Roffe-Steinrotter, a silver medalist in the GS.

All are scheduled to meet again in the Park City event.

Consensus is that this will be the strongest field of skiers to meet since the '92 Games.

The event will begin, as it always has, with a free street dance, with Joe Walsh, and fireworks on Friday night. Competition will begin Saturday with the first giant slalom run at 10 a.m., followed by the second run at 1 p.m. On Sunday, the first slalom run will be at 10 a.m., followed by the second run at 12:30 p.m.

This is the first race on the World Cup circuit for the ladies and, the feeling is, the most important. This race sets the tone for subsequent races. Winners enjoy the lead and confidence that summer training paid off.

Among the favorites will be:

Vreni Schneider . . . She won this event back in 1989 at Park City and has since gone on to become a dominant force on the World Cup circuit. She will come to this race with 40 career wins, which easily puts her No. 1 among active skiers. The only racer, in fact, with more career wins is the legendary Annemarie Moser-Proell with 62.

Wiberg . . . She entered the 1991 season as a racer-to-watch. Before the season ended she was among the tour leaders. The 22-year-old Swede finished second in World Cup standings last season.

Kronberger . . . It took her two years to get in the groove. She started winning titles in 1990, then won three straight overall crowns. She also won two golds in Albertville in slalom and overall.

Coberger . . . Her silver-medal victory in the Olympics marked the first skiing medal for New Zealand and set her up as a top competitor in the slalom. Merle . . . Last year this 28-year-old veteran posted seven World Cup wins and a runner-up spot in the overall race. Her gold-medal win in the Super G makes her a top contender for the GS title in Park City.

Compagnoni . . . She hit a high in the 1992 Games with a gold in the Super G, but followed that with a low 24 hours later when she fell in the GS and tore her knee ligaments.

Then there are U.S. entries:

Parisien . . . This is only her second full season on the World Cup circuit. Last year she started off with two WC wins and a near miss in the Olympics. She ended the season by winning the final slalom event. She comes into the Park City race ranked No. 1 in slalom. She's had a good summer, she says, and is ready to pick up where she left off.

Roffe-Steinrotter . . . She started off as a runner-up to Nathalie Bouvier of France, in last year's America's Opening, then followed that with a second place in the WC event in Vail. She won a silver in the Olympic GS and was 10th in the final WC standings.

Eva Twardokens . . . She underwent knee surgery earlier this year, but was back on snow by late summer and under a full training schedule. She is currently ranked No. 10 in the world in GS.

Kristi Terzian . . . A transplanted Utahn, she enters this year after a long road to recovery. She has undergone two knee operations in two years. In 1990, she set a U.S. record with top-15 finishes in 17 WC races.

This race will be the springboard into the 1993 season. The fact that this year's America's Opening field is so strong will make this a good measuring stick for things to come.

*****

(Additional information)

World Cup schedule

Friday (Nov.27) 7 p.m.

America's Opening Street Dance and Fireworks featuring Joe Walsh on Main Street in Park City. Admission free.

Saturday (Nov. 28)

9:30 a.m. - Pre-race entertainment on PayDay Run.

10 p.m. - Subaru Women's Giant Slalom first run on PayDay.

11:30 a.m. - Parade of Flags and half-time entertainment.

1:30 p.m. - Subaru Women's Giant Slalom second run on PayDay.

3 p.m. - Awards ceremony on Ski Area Plaza.

4 p.m. - Subaru "What to Drive" tailgate party and drawing.

Sunday (Nov. 29)

9:30 a.m. - Pre-race entertainment on PayDay.

10 a.m. - Subaru Women's Slalom first run on PayDay.

11:30 a.m. - Parade of Flags and half-time entertainment.

12:30 p.m. - Subaru Women's Slalom second run on PayDay.

1:30 p.m. - Subaru Invitational Kid's Klassic Race on PayDay.

3 p.m. - Awards ceremony on Ski Area Plaza.

4 p.m. - Ice skating exhibition at the resort's Center Ice Rink. Admission is free.

6 p.m. - Closing ceremonies extravaganza featuring the Dynatones in Ski Area Plaza. Admission is free.