Altenmarkt-Zauchensee, Austria March 5, 2002 (AP by Erica Bulman)--Stephan Eberharter gets one more chance this week to show he has fully moved from the shadow of exalted teammate Hermann Maier.
Eberharter won three medals at the Salt Lake City Olympics. But there's more work ahead for the Austrian at the World Cup Finals if he is to finally end the parallels with Maier.
With Maier still sidelined following his motorcycle crash last summer, Eberharter has surged to the forefront, winning the overall and downhill titles.
He could match Maier's four-title sweep of last season by clinching the super giant slalom and giant slalom crowns.
Eberharter is almost assured the Super G crown, holding a 94-point lead over his only rival, Switzerland's Didier Cuche.
The giant slalom will be tougher. France's Frederic Covili, a favorite who failed to medal at the Olympics, leads the standings with 426 points. Cuche is in second with 380 while Eberharter is third, trailing by 64. Sweden's Fredrik Nyberg and Austria's Benjamin Raich also are in the running.
"Now I want to win the Super G and giant slalom globes,'' Eberharter said. "I realize the chances are smaller for me in the GS, but at this moment I'm very strong in my head and I have great confidence.''
Eberharter could finish with the second-highest point total in World Cup history--behind Maier.
He enters the finals with 1,492 points and a chance at 300 more. Only Maier, with 2,000 points in 2000, 1,685 points in 1998 and 1,618 last season, and Switzerland's Paul Accola with 1,699, have more.
But Eberharter could finish with five downhill victories--one more than Maier had in 2001--if he wins Wednesday's race.
Almost half the World Cup titles already are awarded, and many skiers simply will be trying to end the season on a high note.
Double Olympic silver medalist Bode Miller of the United States and Ivica Kostelic of Croatia, both seeking to make up for Olympic disappointment in the slalom, are the only ones in contention for the World Cup title, with 31 points separating them.
Kostelic, who crashed out in Salt Lake City just three gates from the finish, leads with 511. Miller, who had an equally disastrous Olympic slalom performance--poised to win but falling twice during the race--won three slaloms this season, one more than Kostelic.
On the women's side, the downhill title went to Italy's Isolde Kostner last weekend, while Germany's Hilde Gerg clinched the Super G.
Michaela Dorfmeister's job of winning the overall was made easier when teammate Renate Goetschl shredded knee and elbow ligaments in a crash last weekend.
Dorfmeister leads the overall with 1,031 points, 100 ahead of Goetschl, who was her only dangerous rival before the accident.
Gerg, who has 771, is the only skier in a position to catch Dorfmeister. But the German would have to compete in the giant slalom and perhaps the slalom--events she has shunned in favor of the speed races this season--for any chance to overtake her.
Switzerland's Sonja Nef, the Olympic giant slalom bronze medalist, leads the discipline rankings with 474 points. Only Dorfmeister, trailing by 20 points, could upset her.
Olympic silver medalist Laure Pequegnot of France and American Kristina Koznick are the only women vying for the giant slalom crown. The French woman leads with 552 points, 54 ahead of Koznick.
Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press