Austrian Earns First World Cup Win

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Todtnau, Germany, Feb. 6 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Rainer Schoenfelder, a virtual unknown on the powerful Austrian team, won a slalom race Sunday for his first World Cup triumph.

He is the fourth skier in the past month to enjoy his first World Cup slalom victory.

This was Schoenfelder's first top-three finish, his previous best result being fourth last season. This year, his best effort was sixth in a slalom.

``You can't say the victory was a surprise,'' said Schoenfelder, who joined the World Cup circuit last year. ``I've been working towards it for a while.''

Ninth after the opening leg, he took advantage of an early start in the second run when race officials made the rare decision to reverse the top-15 skiers instead of the top-30 because of the deteriorated conditions of the steep Ahornbuehl course.

Schoenfelder made a quick second trip down, finishing with a total time of 1 minute, 26.87 seconds, denying Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt a second career slalom victory.

``In the second run, the starting order allowed me to go earlier than expected so the conditions were still OK,'' he said. ``When I saw No. 1 next to my name at the finish, I knew I'd accomplished what I always expect from myself.''

Leading after the opening leg, Aamodt had hoped to collect a maximum number of points in order to gain ground on Hermann Maier, the World Cup leader with 1,510 points.

But Aamodt was unable to protect his advantage, dropping to second with a two-run combined time of 1:26.96.

``I tried to defend my lead but there were a lot of ruts and just before the finish I made a small mistake and the victory went away,'' Aamodt said.

``It's always hard to lose by a small margin because victory is always so much better.''

Aamodt also was one of four skiers who gained his first slalom victory this past month. He won at Wengen and became only the fourth skier to post wins in all five Alpine events.

The previous week, Aamodt had been thwarted by unheralded Angelo Weiss of Italy, who collected his first career win after eight years on the circuit.

Austrian prodigy Mario Matt continued the trend, winning the slalom at Kitzbuehel two weeks ago in only his third race on the World Cup circuit.

With Sunday's second place, Aamodt has 1,086 points, cutting Maier's lead to 424.

Maier, who does not compete in slalom unless it is part of a combined event, won Saturday's giant slalom.

``It looks impossible to beat Maier,'' Aamodt said. ``He's winning all the events except slalom, so I try to win what's left.

``I think I'll focus on the World Cup slalom title. I haven't won a World Cup title in many years (since 1994). And to win in the slalom, I would achieve something I haven't done before.''

Aamodt leads the slalom standings with 410 points. Slovenia's Matjaz Vrhovnik is second with 341.

Norway's Ole Christian Furuseth finished third at 1:27.00 and Matt was fourth at 1:27.10.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press