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U.S. WOMEN NOTCH FIVE TOP 10 RESULTS

For the American women's ski team, it was a weekend of breakthroughs on the road to next year's Salt Lake City Olympics.

Led by Kirsten Clark's unexpected victory in Saturday's downhill, the American women had five top-10 results, including a seventh place by Picabo Street, her best finish since returning from a two-year injury layoff.

Teammate Megan Gerety, fourth in the super-G at the recent world championships in St. Anton, was also in top form, finishing eighth in the downhill and sixth in Sunday's super-G.

Isolde Kostner of Italy won the race Sunday, here first a World Cup super-G victory this season, and runner-up Renate Goetschl of Austria remained in contention for a second straight title in the event.

Regine Cavagnoud of France could have won the title with an average result but blundered on the top half of the course.

"I'm really proud of the kids, they did a good job," said Jim Tracy, head coach of the American women's downhill and super-G team. "But none of us here were surprised. We knew it was just a matter of time. It wasn't a shock to us at all or to the skiers."

With only the World Cup finals remaining in Are, Sweden, March 7-11, the weekend's results were of significant importance for the Americans, who hope to ride the momentum into next season.

With the Olympics on home snow less than a year away, the team has been pushing harder.

Clark, the first woman to win three consecutive downhill titles at the U.S. championships, had already shown her potential on the international scene, winning the downhill portion of the combined event at the world championships.

"Doing well in the downhill is not surprising for her by any means," Tracy said.

The first American woman to win a downhill since Street prevailed in Narvik, Norway, in 1996, Clark has been consistent this season, scoring points in 14 of 16 downhill and super-G races.

For Street -- who came back in December after spending more than two years recovering from a shattered leg and shredded ligaments suffered in an ugly crash at the 1998 World Cup finals in Crans Montana -- a top-10 result meant as much as a victory used to in her glory days.

"Her goal the other day was to finish top-10," Tracy said. "She's been away for 2 1/2 years, so she's in a situation where it's 99 percent confidence-building."

For Gerety, the season has been as frustrating as it has been exciting.

The 29-year-old native of Anchorage, Alaska, finished among the top 10 in the downhill four times this season, including a fifth place in Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy.

However, in the super-G, aside from her fourth-place finish at the worlds in St. Anton earlier this month, her best finishes before Sunday were a pair of 21st places in Haus im Ennstal and in Garmisch-Partenkirchen last weekend.

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