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Shredded: Maier makes short work of snowboard foes

PARK CITY — He doesn't have a menacing nickname like his older brother. But Austrian snowboarder Alexander Maier "Herminated" rider after rider in the World Cup parallel giant slalom Sunday.

While "just Alex" celebrated victory for the first time in his career, the "Herminator" himself, Hermann Maier, won the 39th race of his unparalleled skiing career Sunday, taking a super G in Norway. Not bad gifts for their father on his 53rd birthday.

"It's a very good day for our family," Alexander Maier said.

But it didn't turn out to be such a good day for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's Olympic test event at Park City Mountain Resort.

An electrical fire in the start house and a broken back-up timing system postponed the finals for an hour and a half. There were also numerous delays for course grooming. Bright sunshine gave way to cloudy skies as the day wore on, casting shadows and eventually flat light across the course and making visibility difficult for the racers.

American riders Chris Klug and Rosey Fletcher made it to the quarterfinals in the "knockout" format but both made critical mistakes that cost them a chance to advance.

In the parallel giant slalom, the top 16 qualifiers make the finals, where they are paired fastest to slowest. Riders compete head to head on two runs, alternating between the red- and blue-gated courses. The fastest one moves to the next round.

The day belonged to the Austrian and Swiss teams, which took six of the top eight spots combined on the men's and women's sides.

Steffi Von Siebenthal led the way for the Swiss women, beating Olympic gold medalist Karine Ruby of France for her second World Cup win in three weeks. Switzerland's Gilles Jaquet, who won the PGS at the World Championships in January, was second to Maier.

The two men both crashed hard in the first finals heat. But Maier, 26, who dislocated his right shoulder, was awarded the maximum time advantage — 1.72 seconds based on 5 percent of the best qualifying time — because he was one gate ahead.

Jaquet blamed his wipeout on a bad start and an upset stomach. "I wasn't feeling good, and I put my hand down. Snow flew into my face and I lost concentration."

Jaquet figures he ate too much between races at the athletes' lunch buffet. "I really like to eat," he said.

Maier's shoulder popped back into place and he stayed upright on the second run to cruise to victory at the hill where his brother earned his first alpine World Cup giant slalom career win.

It wasn't the first time the younger Maier finished a race with an injured shoulder as he looks to make a mark in snowboarding like his brother has in skiing. He hurt his right shoulder several years ago.

"I hope I can make a name because it's not easy when you're the brother of the Herminator . . . He is the best skier in the world. Not everybody can be so good. I give my best. I want try to get some good results for me, and this was a very good result," he said.

Klug, the top American PGS racer, was in position to knock Maier out in the quarterfinals. He had a .98-second advantage going into the second heat. Klug lost it where the steep part of the course flattens out, a section that claimed several riders on the day.

"I was feeling so good. It's just the rug got slipped out from underneath me there. It was a weird one. I certainly didn't expect it," he said.

Fletcher, too, had a quarterfinal opportunity to beat eventual champion Von Siebenthal. She had a two-second advantage going into the second run but "barged" in the start house. That is, she jumped through the start gate too early and was disqualified.

Fletcher, who ended up fifth, complained afterward that the race starter changed the cadence. "My frustration is that this is the year before the Olympics and they should try to simulate it as much as possible. And for them to not say, "Go?"

That, along with an electrical fire in the starting mechanism earlier, proved to be one of several technical difficulties on the day.

Although International Ski Federation race director Ted Martin discovered a broken back-up timing device in the starting area, he wasn't informed until after the contest of another one that had malfunctioned in the finish area. Had primary clocks failed, calculating accurate times might have been impossible.

Martin said he's confident the bugs can be worked out for the 2002 Winter Games.

Riders generally liked the race course itself, but its shape and gate settings also presented some problems that Martin said would be addressed before next year.