Eberharter Takes Overall Title in Maier's Absence

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Kvitfjell, Norway March 3, 2002 (AP by Stephan Nasstrom)--With Hermann Maier sidelined this season, Stephan Eberharter grabbed the title as the world's top Alpine skier.

He will kiss the crystal trophy as overall champion this weekend when the World Cup finals are held in the Herminator's hometown of Flachau, Austria.

``For me, it's the first overall, so this is very, very special,'' Eberharter said.

He clinched his first World Cup overall title with a third-place finish in Sunday's Super G on Lillehammer's Olympic course.

``I never thought I'd win the World Cup,'' the 33-year-old Eberharter said. ``It was never that big a goal for me. I always wanted to ski as well as I could, and the rest would come itself. I had a great season and I'm, very, very happy to win the overall.''

Eberharter was third overall in 1998, and last year he finished second behind Maier, who was unable to defend his overall title after breaking his leg in a motorcycle accident in August.

Eberharter used to ride a motorcycle in the summer when not skiing on glaciers to prepare for another season. But he gave it up for golf.

``I sold my motorcycle because I broke my collarbone many years ago,'' he said. ``Now I don't have time for riding motorcycles.''

Italy's Alessandro Fattori won Sunday's race, his second World Cup triumph. His winning time down the Olympiabakken--the 1994 Olympic downhill and Super G course--was 1 minute, 36.68 seconds.

Didier Defago of Switzerland finished second, 0.20 behind, and Eberharter was third, 0.24 behind.

Fattori won his first World Cup race, a downhill, at Val d'Isere, France, last season.

``This win is bigger,'' he said. ``They said I won in Val d'Isere just because of my fast skis. But here I showed that I can also ski well.''

Eberharter also won the downhill crown after winning five of nine races before last month's Winter Olympics, where he won a gold medal in the giant slalom, silver in the Super-G and bronze in the downhill.

He could add the Super G World Cup title next week. Before the last race, he leads Didier Cuche of Switzerland 420-326. Cuche was 10th in Sunday's race.

``I have a good advantage,'' Eberharter said. ``It was important for me to be ahead of Cuche. That's what I did, so it was a good day for me.

Daron Rahlves of the United States, the defending world Super G champion who won back-to-back downhills here two years ago for his first World Cup wins, wound up 23rd. The top American was Thomas Vonn at 20th.

Teammate Bode Miller, a slalom and giant slalom specialist who is fourth overall, was 29th.

Four races, one in each discipline--slalom, giant slalom, super G and downhill--are scheduled at the World Cup finals beginning Thursday.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press