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ROSA KHUTOR

Swiss skiersDominique Gisin and Lara Gut took the top two spots in women’s downhill training at the Sochi Winter Olympics on Saturday, as several of the other top contenders opted to take the day off.Austria’sAnna Fenninger,Germany’s Maria Hoefl-Riesch andSlovenia’sTina Maze were among those who decided to skip the third practice run, a day after Hoefl-Riesch complained the women’s run was too easy. With the course getting firmer and bumpier as the women gear up for their first event, the Super-Combined, on Monday, some of the German’s rivals detected a trace of mind games in her remarks. “If it would be super easy, it would be better for her,” Gisin told reporters. “Maybe she’s having psychology on herself. It’s a difficult course, you have to ski well. You definitely can punch one in there — anyone can,” said AmericanJulia Mancuso, silver medallist in the downhill atVancouver in 2010. “If you’re within a second, a second and a half, anyone can win from there,” she said after coming in eighth, 1.38 seconds behind Gisin. Gisin led the field by 0.19 seconds from Gut, withSweden’s Kajsa Kling in third. It was the second day running that a Swiss skier had set the pace, after Fabienne Suter topped the board on Friday. Despite the absences, the last practice session had a competitive edge as some of the strongest teams, limited to four entries in the field, were making their final selections. “It’s the rules of the Olympics. In the end it’s kind of crazy that you have more competition at a usual World Cup race than at the Olympics. Some of the top 15 won’t even race. But that’s the rules, we know it,” Gisin said. “For me it was good that I could handle the pressure, that gives me a lot of confidence.” Competing for the last two slots in the US line-up alongside Mancuso andStacey Cook,Jackie Wiles came fourth in the timings, with Laurenne Ross fifth andLeanne Smith back in 22nd place. Cook said conditions were “definitely getting harder and harder.” “It’s really good actually. I think that the hard bumpy snow is what made theVancouver Olympics so exciting and it looks like we’re getting that built up again here. “It’s a challenge for sure but I think that it’s a good challenge for me.”

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