Maier Roughed Up in Ski Crash

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ERICA BULMAN Associated Press Writer Val D'Isere, France, Dec. 11 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Hermann Maier doesn't plan to let a bruised spine and slight concussion stop him.

Maier, who has won five of his six World Cup races this year, was injured Friday after a crash during practice.

However, the Austrian star still intends to race today in his bid to win a downhill for the first time on this course. He also plans to compete in the giant slalom Sunday.

``I'm always so unlucky here,'' he said. ``At the start of the year, it was one of my goals to win downhills at the events where I've never won: Val d'Isere, Sestriere and Kitzbuehel.

``I don't know what shape I'll be in tomorrow. Sometimes these things are worse the next day.''

This season, Maier has won a downhill, two super-Gs and a pair of giant slaloms. Austrians have won seven of eight races, with Didier Plaschy of Switzerland breaking the sweep by winning a slalom.

Maier skidded off the course Friday during a giant slalom practice run. He was tossed in the air and slammed on his back, his head hitting the hard snow.

His trouble at Val d'Isere began three years ago, when he was sidelined with the flu and unable to even start.

The following year, bad weather forced organizers to cancel the downhill. That year, misfortune struck a second time _ Maier's victory in the giant slalom was revoked because he stepped out of his skis and flashed his sponsor's name to TV cameras before crossing the part of the finish area where unstrapping is allowed.

He was again frustrated last year, when bad weather repeatedly interrupted the race. Maier finished 35th to Norway's Lasse Kjus.

This time, Maier arrived determined. He was in shape and his confidence was soaring. He even embarked on a nutritional program in which he took a mystical energy brew from a 900-year-old Chinese recipe _ roasted drake juices mixed with ginseng and herbs.

But if Maier feels he has been jinxed at Val d'Isere, Kjus has been blessed.

Last year, after struggling through his first races, Kjus' victory in the downhill on this course appeared to jumpstart his season.

Marking the first of six World Cup victories that season, Kjus went on to take Maier's World Cup overall crown, the World Cup downhill and combined titles. Kjus also won a record five medals at the world championships in Vail, Colo.

But he is less optimistic about this season because of a knee injury that hindered his training this summer.

``I don't think I can repeat what I did last year,'' he said.

Kjus' best results this season are third place in the super-G in Beaver Creek, seventh in the first downhill and seventh in a giant slalom.

He is tied for ninth in the overall, with 132 points, 448 behind Maier.

``All I want to do is beat Maier,'' he said.

Copyright © 1999 The Associated Press