Raich Takes Overall World Cup Lead


WENGEN, Switzerland, Jan. 18, 2004 (AP by Erica Bulman) — Benjamin Raich of Austria overcame fog and snow to win a World Cup slalom Sunday, moving into first place in the overall standings for the first time in his career.

Raich was timed for his two runs in 1 minute, 40.50 seconds. Teammate Rainer Schoenfelder was second in 1:40.97 and world slalom champion Ivica Kostelic of Croatia was third in 1:41.54. The top U.S. skier was Tom Rothrock in 22nd place.

“I’m very happy. This was a very difficult win,” said Raich, who picked up his third victory on the classic stop on the World Cup circuit. “Not only were the conditions really difficult but this slalom course in Wengen is very hard, one of the hardest.”

Raich vaulted past Lasse Kjus of Norway into first place in the overall standings with 680 points. Kjus is second with 595, and Hermann Maier of Austria is third at 555.

“I’m in the overall lead now and I would like to stay here,” Raich said. “But there is still a long season ahead, and on top of it, there are a lot of downhills that were postponed and will be run soon, so that puts it all into perspective.”

The top three skiers in the slalom _ World Cup leader Giorgio Rocca of Italy, Manfred Pranger of Austria and Kalle Palander of Finland all careened off course in the opening leg, as did Bode Miller.

“The conditions were really tough. Not a lot of us were going fast,” Miller said. “After I went out, I watched a bit from the side of the hill. The skiing that was being put down was pretty depressing.

“It’s disappointing, obviously because I feel like my slalom is ready to be good but I’m pretty patient. I go out and I have a good plan and I try to execute it and if it doesn’t work then I go on to the next one.”

Schoenfelder’s finish was impressive because the Austrian was racing with a cracked rib, an injury sustained during training between races in Soelden and Park City.

“I can’t sleep at night because of the pain,” Schoenfelder said. “So this is a pretty good result, considering everything.”

The most spectacular performance came from Canada’s Thomas Grandi, who was 26th after the first run. He turned in the fastest second run, rallying for a season-best fifth-place finish in 1:41.61. He was the only skier under 48 seconds in the second run, and was 0.67 faster the rest of the field.

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