Palander Wins Giant Slalom

Palander 02 07 04

ADELBODEN, Switzerland, Feb. 7 2004 (AP by Erica Bulman) -- Finland's Kalle Palander withstood rain, sleet and a deteriorating course Saturday to win a World Cup giant slalom, his second victory in the event this season.

Palander, the leader after the opening leg, twisted down the soggy course in a two-run time of 2 minutes, 32.15 seconds.

"This was a very difficult victory," Palander said. "I really had to fight for it."

Italy's Massimiliano Blardone was second in 2:32.89, the second top-three finish of his career, and Austria's Christoph Gruber was third in 2:33.27.

Bode Miller, second fastest in the opening leg, veered off course in the second leg.

"You can't see any of the bumps ... I just came in there and said, 'OK, please be smooth,"' Miller said.

"This is definitely one of the toughest courses," he added. "You can go out on the third gate here. There aren't a lot of courses like this."

U.S. teammate Daron Rahlves was 12th -- his best finish in a giant slalom -- and Dane Spencer was 13th.

Palander leads the discipline rankings with 349 points, 39 ahead of Miller. Miller also had been trying to gain on the speed specialists in the race for the overall title.

Hermann Maier, who finished eighth, kept the overall lead. The Austrian has 954 points and is followed by two countrymen: Benjamin Raich (925) and defending champion Stephan Eberharter (881). Miller is fifth (772).

In the opening leg, snow at the top of the course and rain at the bottom made for difficult skiing. The poor visibility and slush meant skiers with late start numbers had virtually no chance of qualifying for the second run.

Starting from the No. 2 spot, Palander posted the fastest initial time. In the second run, rain and snow hampered the skiers. With the top 30 racing in reverse order, Palander overcame the worst conditions of the second leg.

Eberharter was hurt by a late start number in the first run and finished in 21st place. Raich, fourth after the opening leg, lost his chance for a big gain in the overall title, dropping to 24th after the second leg.

Copyright © 2004 The Associated Press