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For the week of Jan 30 - Feb 5, 2002

  Weekend Edition

Olympic racers electrify spectators

Belmondo and Muehlegg win Idaho International Grand Prix

Express Staff Writer

Even before the Idaho International Grand Prix started Wednesday at the Sun Valley Nordic Center, two names electrified spectators.

Stefania Belmondo of Italy, center, enjoys her victory on Wednesday. On the left is second place winner Beckie Scott of Canada, and on the right is third place winner Valentin Shevchenko of Ukraine. Express photos by Willy Cook

And Stefania Belmondo of Italy and Johann Muehlegg of Spain lived up to expectations.

Belmondo won the womenís five kilometer classic technique race in 15:55.1, and Muehlegg won the menís 10 kilometer skating technique race in 26:21.9.

More than 150 cross country skiing Olympian from around the world competed in the event. For many teams, the race was their final competition prior to the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Utah.

Belmondo, into her fifth Olympics, was announced by the master of ceremonies, Bob Rosso, as "the most experienced veteran in the history" of womenís cross-country skiing.

Muehlegg, born in Germany but racing for Spain, is the Nordic World Cup champion. Rosso described him as a skier really into endurance training.

As indicators of their speed and ability, Belmondo started 26th in a field of 27 international skiers, and Muehlegg started 24th in a field of 24 international skiers.

Belmondo almost had to race without her own skis on Wednesday.

Two nights before the race, a thief broke into the Italian teamís trailer at the race site at the Sun Valley Gun Club and made off with all eight pairs of her skis.

On the morning of the race, three pairs of her skis were found at the Sun Valley Nordic Center by a trail groomer, said Rick Kapala.

Kapala is the head coach for the Sun Valley Cross Country Team.

Sun Valley Police Sgt. Mike Crawford said that a note was attached to the skis saying they needed to be returned to the Italian team by 10 a.m.

The day after the race, Belmondo said in her broken English that the robbery had affected her concentration, but she was doing better focusing on the Olympics.

Cold was an additional problem for Belmondo, but only for her first of two times around the course.

Kapala said the minimum allowable temperature for the Olympians is minus 4 degrees.

It was minus 10 degrees Wednesday morning, but it warmed up to 5 degrees by the time the womenís race began, he said.

Kapala estimated the temperature for the start of the menís race was about 15 degrees.

Beckie Scott of Canada won second place at 16:10.4 with Valentin Shevchenko of Ukraine coming in with a close third place at 16:10.5.

In the menís race, Markus Hasler of Liechtenstein came in second place 37 seconds behind Muehlegg at 26:58.8. Stephan Kunz of Liechtenstein came in third at 27:29.6.

Jack Sibbach, the marketing director for Sun Valley Co., reported in a press release that more than 1,000 people turned out for the two races.


The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.