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U.S. Ski Champions Have Joyful Reunion : Women's All-Star Race Precedes Opening of World Cup Season

November 29, 1986|Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — Olympic silver medalist Christin Cooper says it wasn't easy donning skis again after two years of retirement.

As it turned out, she had a blast on Thursday competing against two dozen other former world champions in full view of the new stars on the U.S. Ski Team.

"This is the first time that so many Olympic team members have been brought together. It was a wonderful reunion," said the 26-year-old Cooper, who also won two silvers and a bronze in the 1982 World Championships.

The setting was the first Women's All-Star race at Park City, Utah, a prelude to Saturday's opening of the 1987 women's World Cup ski season. It reunited 24 of the sport's brightest stars from as far back as 1948.

"We had more people turn out than we expected, considering that it was Thanksgiving," Cooper said. "It was a beautiful, warm sunny day and people really took part and got involved in what was happening."

The race featured such former champions as Suzy Chaffee, a former Alpine skier who became a three-time world freestyle champion; Viki Fleckenstein-Woodworth and 57-year-old Sally Neidlinger-Hudson.

Fleckenstein, married to former pro standout Richie Woodworth, combined with teammates Sandra Poulsen and 1976 Olympic giant slalom champion Kathy Kreiner of Canada to beat seven other teams and earn $2,000 apiece.

"All these older women still just ski fantastically," said Cooper, who with teammates Karen Korfanta and Patty Boydstun-Hovdey placed second.

"We had Viki seven months pregnant and she still skied fantastically, and her team won. They're all strong and healthy, and that says a lot for the sport of skiing," Cooper said.

Cooper, a Sun Valley, Idaho, native, suffered a few pangs of nostalgia upon returning as a businesswoman instead of as a competitor to the home of the U.S. Ski Team.

She says she is glad to be free of the "crazy life style" and pressure of the international ski tour.

"But I do miss being able to ski with the best in the world, because you definitely lose that when you don't ski every day," she said.

"It was my second time on skis since last year, and I didn't want anyone on the ski team to watch me. But you never really lose it."

Cooper said the Park City resort's PayDay course was in good condition for the World Cup, which is opening on North American snow for the first time in its 21-year history.

"It's a great start for the Americans," she said. "I can't say that, just because we're in America, we're going to do well. It's the support. We're expecting 10,000 to 15,000 people to come out and watch the race this year, and they will be rooting for the Americans."

Among those leading the cheers will be Cooper and the other former champions, whom Cooper praised for making the trip to Utah.

"All these former Olympians came out to support that effort," she said. "I think that's very special. Skiing was so good to us. Now we're in a position to give back to it."

Cooper said the American women's team, led by Olympic and world champion medalists Tamara McKinney, Debbie Armstrong, Diann Roffe, Eva Twadorkens and Pam Fletcher, also boasts a strong group of developing skiers.

"We really do have talent in the ranks down below, looking ahead to 1988 and 1992," she said.

The World Cup begins with a giant slalom Saturday, with the season's first slalom Sunday.

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