Strobl Beats Maier in Downhill

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Wengen, Switzerland--Jan. 18, (AP by Erica Bulman) Austrian Josef Strobl had a simple explanation for winning the demanding Lauberhorn World Cup downhill, and teammate Hermann Maier had an equally easy one for his failure in the race Saturday.

``It's always a stroke of luck when you win on this course,'' said Strobl, who tamed one of the world's toughest layouts with a run of 2 minutes, 29.17 seconds.

Maier, the World Cup overall leader and double Olympic and world champion who finished .16 seconds behind, blamed the defeat on caution.

``I didn't take the ultimate risk, and that cost me the victory,'' he said. ``When I reviewed the video, I saw Josef had taken a tighter line than mein a few key places.

``That only shaves off a few meters. But that means a few valuable hundredths of a second.''

Maier, favored to win, had been leading the race with at 2:29.33, holding a massive 1.29 lead over his nearest challenger, Italian Kristian Ghedina. But Strobl, the ninth skier out of the start hut, relegated Maier to second place.

But Maier padded his lead in the overall standings. He has 1,100 points to 646 for Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt. Maier also leads the downhill standings with 460 points. Ghedina is second with 372 and Strobl third with 332.

Canadian Ed Podivinsky made the podium with a run of 2:30.56. Ghedina was fourth at 2:30.62.

``I never expected to do so well on a classic course like this,'' said Podivinsky, also third in a downhill in Val Gardena in December. ``I surprised myself today.''

It was the first win this season for Strobel, one he'll certainly cherish.

``To finish ahead of Hermann is a real plus and makes it special,'' he said after getting sixth career World Cup win and his third in the downhill.

Austrian Peter Rzehak helped the Lauberhorn live up to its reputation for difficulty. He lost control after launching off the notorious Hundschopf jump, and careened wildly into the safety nets.

Half carried by the medics, Rzehak limped to a helicopter and was taken to the a nearby clinic. He tore cruciate knee ligaments, and was flown to a hospital at Innsbruck for treatment.

``When the skiers take off on the Hundschopf, they don't see where they are going to land,'' Maier said. ``It's possible Rzehak took the wrong line and realized it too late.''

Swiss fans had a scare when homeboy Silvano Beltrametti lost control coming off the small jump at the bottom of the course, crashed heavily in the safety mattresses and slid across the finish line.

The Swiss skier was able to walk away with the help of team officials.

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