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Aamodt Renews Fight for Overall Title with Maier


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Adelboden, Switzerland Feb. 21 (AP by Erica Bulman)–By finishing second to Slovenia’s Matjaz Vrhovnik in the slalom, Norway’s Kjetil Andre Aamodt gave new life to his chase of leader Hermann Maier for the World Cup overall title.

Aamodt, who all but gave up the race for the overall crown after Maier built a seemingly unassailable lead, suddenly finds himself inside the 400-point comfort zone of the “Herminator.”

Hoping to pad his advantage this weekend, Maier instead saw foul weather wipe out any chance at gaining points in Saturday’s giant slalom, his best event, then watched as Aamodt narrowed the gap with his second-place finish in Sunday’s slalom.

The only skier who still can still catch Maier in the race for the overall, Aamodt reduced Maier’s advantage to 346 points.

“My comfort zone is four hundred points,” Maier confided a few weeks ago. “If he gets within that, I’ll have to take more drastic measures.”

Aamodt has made life uncomfortable for Maier, who was planning to skip next week’s taxing trip to Yongpyong, South Korea, for a giant slalom.

With both Aamodt and reigning World Cup giant slalom champion Michael Von Gruenigen having already booked their tickets for Asia, a nervous Maier is reconsidering his travel plans.

The Asian resort is staging two technical events, but Maier, winner of three of five giant slaloms this season, does not race in the slalom, which would mean flying to South Korea for just one race.

If he misses the event, it would allow Aamodt a chance to collect valuable points in both races.

Von Gruenigen, second in the giant slalom standings, is determined to hang onto his crown, and a victory in Yongpyong could chip away dangerously at Maier’s 169-point lead in that ranking.

“I want to avoid jet lag, and it’s never easy with the time difference,” Maier said. “It seems to me that for one race, it’s just not worth it.

“The week after in Kvitfjell, the three races there are more important,” Maier said. “But I won’t make a decision until Wednesday.”

His recent results might influence that decision.

After starting the month on a high note, surpassing compatriot Franz Klammer as the most successful Austrian skier ever and matching American Phil Mahre on the career World Cup victories list with 27 wins, Maier’s winning streak has ground to a halt.

Last week, in his favorite discipline, the powerful Austrian crashed in the first of back-to-back super-Gs in St. Anton, the site of the 2001 world championships _ and then settled for third the next day.

This weekend, the double Olympic and world champion again came up empty when the giant slalom was stopped after 33 skiers because of heavy snow and wind.

But even if Maier decides to bypass the races in Asia, he would still be hard to catch.

“Maier races in three disciplines, and try as I might, I haven’t been able to beat him in those events,” said Aamodt, who solidified his position atop the World Cup slalom rankings.

“Even if I win the three remaining slalom races, I’ll still be behind,” said Aamodt, an 11-year veteran of the circuit who won the overall back in 1994. “It’ll be tough to beat him in any of his three disciplines. It’s possible, but not likely.”

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press