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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 21:51 GMT

Kirchgasser in pole

Maria Kirchgasser leads the women's parallel giant slalom after qualifying, but will face a strong French challenge in the final.

The Austrian finished one-hundredth of a second ahead of France's Karine Ruby, the 1998 Olympic gold medallist.

The final will see 16 boarders go head-to-head in a knock-out competition format.

Ruby is joined in the top five seeds by compatriots Isabelle Blanc and Julie Pomagalski.

Italy's Lidia Trettel finished third.

"I had a great run," Ruby said after qualification.

"I was so scared about falling. I just tried to stay alive on this race, and getting into the top was better than I expected."

She added that the fact that there was just one qualifying run, compared to two at Nagano, made the day more stressful.

The only US woman to make the parallel giant slalom final was seventh-placed qualifier Lisa Kosglow.

The final will be held on Friday at the Park City Mountain Resort.

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