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ALTA BADIA, Italy Dec. 19, 2004 (AP by Andrew Dampf)–The night before Thomas Grandi captured a giant slalom for his first victory in his 12 World Cup seasons, he was approached by a youngster who predicted he would win. Grandi, a Canadian born to Italian parents in this mountain range, thanked him and promised him his bib if he finished first.
“So after the race, unfortunately he found me and I gave him my bib,” a smiling Grandi said Sunday after becoming the first Canadian man to win a World Cup race since Cary Mullen in 1994 at Aspen, Colo.
Austria’s Benjamin Raich was second and Switzerland’s Didier Cuche and Austria’s Hermann Maier shared third. The top U.S. finisher was Daron Rahlves in eighth place.
Bode Miller missed a gate and did not finish his second run, reducing the American’s lead in the overall standings. Winner of six of 13 races this season, Miller still holds a 798-479 points lead on Maier.
Miller said he skied over a rock during his first run and was in 20th place, perhaps causing him to press in the second run. The Canadian team trains often with the Americans, and Miller was pleased for Grandi.
“He’s been skiing a long, long time, waiting and working hard,” Miller said. “It’s great to see him on top.”
Grandi, who was second after the first run, covered the steep and twisting Gran Risa course in a two-run time of 2 minutes, 34.23 seconds.
“It’s been a long journey to get to this point,” Grandi said. “I really wanted to get that monkey off my back and win, and it couldn’t have happened in a better place than Alta Badia.”
Until now, his best finishes were second in a slalom in Kitzbuehel, Austria, last season and third in a giant slalom in Park City, Utah, in 1997-98.
Raich had a fantastic second run and moved up from 10th after the first leg to finish 0.57 seconds behind. Cuche and Maier, the defending overall champion, were 0.91 seconds back.
“I used different skis for the second run,” Raich said. “The first run I wasn’t confident enough to attack.”
First-run leader Kalle Palander of Finland skied out midway through his second run. After the mistake, Grandi was joined by his teammates in a celebration in finish area. Grandi reached down and kissed the snow.
Grandi was sixth in two giant slaloms at this site last year.
“Skiing is sort of crazy. I skied terribly in Europa Cup a couple of days ago and finished 28th,” said Grandi, referring to skiing’s minor leagues. “There have been times I thought about quitting, asking myself if I was good enough to win. When I hurt my back four years ago and missed an entire season, I had a lot of doubts about returning.”
Grandi speaks Italian and holds an Italian passport. His family left for Banff, Alberta, when he was 2 1/2.
“The first plan was to go to Australia, but there were some immigration problems, so we decided on Canada. My parents didn’t know where to go and someone said go to Banff,” Grandi said.
“It definitely feels like a second home here,” he added.
Grandi’s main goal now is the 2006 Winter Olympics.
“I’m aiming for Turin, that could be the end of my career,” he said.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press