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Karl wins snowboard World Cup

PYEONGCHANG, Gangwon Province ― Benjamin Karl of Austria won the LG FIS snowboarding World Cup title in the parallel slalom event Wednesday.

The Vancouver Olympic silver medalist claimed his fourth title of the season after beating Siegfried Grabner of Austria in the final in men’s event at the Yonpyong Resort, in PyeongChang, Gangwon Province.

The parallel giant slalom, which was first introduced in the 1998 Nagano Olympics, is considered one of the most grueling sports.

Like the giant slalom in skiing, competitors must zig-zag between gates, but unlike in skiing, snowboard giant slalom involves racing head-to-head with a rival on parallel courses. And they have to undergo numerous rounds to get to the final.

On Wednesday, in a final decided by the best of two runs, the Austrian came in 0.44 seconds faster than Grabner in the first attempt.

Karl, who won the 2009 World Championship here, easily defended his title after leaving his fellow country man too far behind to mount a challenge at the second run.

Aaron March of Italy raced past Manuel Veith of Austria for the third-place finish.

In the women’s race, Marion Kreiner of Austria beat the 2009 champion Fraenzi Maegert-Kohil of Switzerland by 3.37 seconds.

Meanwhile, eight Korean boarders ― five in men and three women ― competed to claim their first title on home turf. However, they all failed to make it though the knock-out stage, demonstrating that they still need more time and experience to ascend to world-class level.

PyeonChang held for the first time the FIS snowboard World Cup in an attempt to grab global attention ahead of the International Olympic Committee’s on-site inspection next week. For the third time, the Gangwon Province city is bidding to host the Winter Olympics.

More than 100 snowboarders from around the world were invited to the event, slated for Monday to Wednesday.

But almost half of the players had to return home without having the chance to explore the slopes here as one of the two planned events, snowboard cross, was canceled Monday due to a safety concern related to the course design.

“The event was called off not because of the condition of the slope, but because of the course design by the International Ski Federation,” said an official from Gangwon Province.

“There is no need to worry about our capability to host the international event,” he added.

PyeongChang is now preparing to welcome a special IOC delegation which will conduct on-site inspections from Feb. 14-20.

By Oh Kyu-wook (