Alaska skiers win U.S. cross country titles
BOZEMAN, Mont. -- Anchorage skiers Lars Flora and Kikkan Randall won the opening sprint races Saturday in the U.S. cross country championships.
With snow falling throughout the races, Flora held off Carl Swenson, a 1994 Olympian from Boulder, Colo., to win the men's sprint. Torin Koos of Leavenworth, Wash., was third.
The victory was worth $1,200 and strengthened Flora's bid for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, which will be finalized a few days after championships conclude Jan. 13.
Kikkan Randall won the women's race, followed by Tessa Benoit of South Pomfret, Vt., and Barb Jones of Bozeman. Aelin Peterson of Fairbanks finished sixth.
Fletcher makes U.S. snowboard team for Olympics
ANCHORAGE -- Girdwood snowboarder Rosey Fletcher is headed for the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City for her second attempt to win a cherished Olympic medal.
With her second-place showing in an Oregon qualifying race, the 26-year-old Fletcher, along with Lisa Kosglow of Boise, Idaho, now hold a commanding lead in the points race for the four-woman Olympic squad.
''I'm really excited,'' Fletcher said in a call on her cellular phone from Mount Bachelor, Ore. ''I'm proud to be going. I'm excited to be representing Alaska.''
Mainly, though, the Girdwood boarder confessed to being happy to put the U.S. qualifying process behind her.
Despite entering the Olympic season as one of the world's best snowboarders, Fletcher still had to rack up enough points in five races to make her second U.S. Olympic team.
She grabbed a spot after just three races.
She was the first American, fifth overall, at the first race in Whistler, in Canada, and the second American at the second event in Park City, Utah. The race at Mount Bachelor, near Bend, Ore., put her in.
Twins hire Gardenhire as manager
MINNEAPOLIS -- Even with the threat of contraction looming, new Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire is focused on the 2002 season.
''We all know that contraction is out there,'' Gardenhire said. ''But I can't do anything about that. All I can do is go and get this team ready for spring training.''
Gardenhire replaces longtime manager Tom Kelly and inherits a team that finished second in the AL Central last season, Minnesota's best finish since it won the World Series.
Sanders signs one-year contract with Giants
SAN FRANCISCO -- Reggie Sanders went with his gut feeling.
Sanders signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco Giants on Saturday, leaving World Series champion Arizona after hitting a career-high 33 homers last season.
''I had other opportunities, but something in my heart tells me this is a perfect fit,'' Sanders said. ''I think this team has a better chance of winning a world championship, and I wanted to be part of that (Giants manager) Dusty Baker thing.''
Giants assistant general manager Ned Colletti completed the deal with Sander's agent Friday morning while driving back to the San Francisco Bay area after watching the Rose Bowl game in Pasadena.
Martin suspended for two games
NEW YORK -- New Jersey Nets forward Kenyon Martin was suspended for two games and fined $15,000 by the NBA on Saturday for a flagrant foul against Orlando's Tracy McGrady.
Martin, who is developing a reputation as a dirty player, caused a fracas at the end of Orlando's 109-96 win Friday night by knocking McGrady to the floor with a forearm on a layup attempt with 2:57 to play.
''It was a hard foul,'' said Martin, who guarded McGrady most of the night. ''That's all it was, a hard foul. It's over.''
McGrady got up quickly and bumped and shoved Martin. The Nets power forward threw a jab before officials and teammates separated the two.
Cuche wins giant slalom
ADELBODEN, Switzerland -- Didier Cuche of Switzerland won a men's giant slalom Saturday for his first World Cup victory in nearly four years.
Cuche, among the top 10 in more than 30 races over the past three seasons without ever winning, delivered two aggressive runs for a winning combined time of 2 minutes, 23.99 seconds.
He finished a whopping 1.15 seconds ahead of Frederic Covili of France to collect his first career win in the giant slalom.
Paerson wins third slalom in a row
MARIBOR, Slovenia -- Anja Paerson keeps winning World Cup slaloms, and Kristina Koznick keeps finishing second.
Paerson, the world champion, maintained her first-run lead Saturday to easily win her third consecutive slalom race.
The 20-year-old Swede compiled an aggregate time of 1 minute, 38.05 seconds. Koznick, of Burnesville, Minn., was 1.19 seconds behind -- runner-up to Paerson for the second straight slalom.
''I skied the first race well and made two mistakes in the second, and Anja didn't,'' Koznick said.
Laure Pequegnot of France was third, 1.25 seconds back, with Tanja Poutiainen of Finland in fourth.
Sarah Schleper of Vail, Colo., less at home in the slalom than in the faster disciplines, was seventh. Defending World Cup champion Janica Kostelic, struggling to regain her form after three offseason knee operations, finished ninth Saturday.
Judging by her superior speed and agility, Paerson will be the skier to beat in the slalom at the Feb. 8-24 Salt Lake City Games.
''The Olympics are the high point of this season, and I feel in really great shape,'' Paerson said. ''Nobody is unbeatable, but I feel very close to this.''
Koznick, whose form also is rising as the Olympics draw closer, responded: ''We'll see about that tomorrow.''
There is another World Cup slalom Sunday in Maribor.
Talking about the Olympics, the 26-year-old Koznick said, ''Like today, it will be between me, Anja, and Laure. For sure there will be some special pressure, but everyone wants to do well.''
Koznick has four slalom victories and was second to Paerson in the last slalom, in Lienz, Austria.
The victory extended Paerson's lead in the slalom standings and vaulted her atop the overall standings with 509 points -- 48 more than second-place Sonja Nef.
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