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Shaffer captures slalom title
She surprises everyone except her coach

SHARE Shaffer captures slalom title
She surprises everyone except her coach

DEER VALLEY -- Nothing about Alex Shaffer surprises Georg Capaul. She's up, she's down, she's everywhere.

She's capable of anything, he admitted, including back-to-back wins in the Chevy Truck U.S. National Alpine and Freestyle Championships, which apparently surprised everyone but her coach. Even Shaffer herself was taken aback."I knew I could, I've worked hard to get here, I just didn't expect to win both races. Not this way. I had a three-year drought and now two in a row," she said.

After winning the women's giant slalom at Park City on Monday, her first win in more than three years, she bettered her U.S. teammates and a field of 50 other women to win the slalom on Wednesday.

A short time later, Sacha Gros heard the call, "go faster," from his coaches standing on the sidelines. He did and won the men's slalom over a field of 75 racers.

Gros, from Vail, Colo., led after the first run, but his halfway time on the second run put him well behind.

"I could tell I was slow. I even heard my coaches screaming at me to go faster. I knew if I was going to win that I'd better pick it up. I found another gear and went down the fall line and went just as fast as I could. I knew I could win on the bottom and I just let 'er rip," he recalled.

The men's and women's slalom wrapped up a week of alpine and freestyle events that included use of several Olympic venues, some for the first time. The slalom on Wednesday was held on a run cut for the combined slalom. The actual slalom course will be on the run next door.

Consensus of both men and women after Wednesday's race was that the course fits into the Olympic picture, with a good mix of flats, steep pitches and transitions.

No one, of course, would agree more than Shaffer, a part-time Park City resident and former student of the Rowmark Ski Academy.

Capaul said the one thing that set Shaffer up for the double win was her fall in the downhill last Friday.

"It took all the pressure off her to win the combined. If she had been in the running for the combined I don't know if she would have been as aggressive as she was today," he said.

The course on the first run was firm, but warm temperatures softened the snow for the second run.

Shaffer said the team practices in the summer on soft snow, "so it was really nothing we weren't used to."

Shaffer's time was one-minute, 50.05 seconds.

Finishing second in the women's race was Kristina Koznick, of Burnsville, Minn., considered the top slalom skier on the U.S. Ski Team. She finished sixth in the overall World Cup standings and had won this event four years in a row. She came here with her sights on No. 5.

"Now I've got to race for five more years to get it back," she joked.

"But I skied OK. I went as fast as I could. I think I skied pretty well. I made little mistakes here and there, but that's all I had. That's all I could do." Her time was 1:50.39. Third was Caroline Lalive in 1:50.83.

For Erik Schlopy of Park City, the race on Wednesday was the beginning and not the end of the season, as it is for most races.

Schlopy quit the U.S. team three years ago and is making an attempt to regain a spot for 2002. He was 16th after the first run of the GS on Tuesday but fell on his second run and did not finish. On Wednesday, he was sixth after the first run and finished sixth.

"It's been tough coming back and losing all my rankings. I've had to start at the back and work my way up. My season is just starting this week because I'm finally getting the chance to start with the other guys," he said.

"My objective is to win a medal in my hometown in 2002. It's trying my patience right now, but I have a long time and I know I can do it."

For Gros the win put an ending to the '98-99 year.

"I was a little burned out and I wanted to win so bad. It's been a long year. I've had a few injuries and some bad times. A win like this makes you forget about all the bad times," he said.

Gros' combined time was 1:43.49 seconds. Drew Thorne Thomsen was second in 1:43.87, and third was Marco Pastore, a student from Italy at Sierra Nevada College, with a time of 1:43.90.

Following the Wednesday race it was announced that the U.S. National Alpine events would be moved to Jackson Hole, Wyo., next year.