February 20, 2005
GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN, Germany (AP by Erica Bulman)–Christoph Gruber made up for his disappointing performance at the world championships with his first World Cup victory in four years.
Gruber, who failed to qualify for the Austrian downhill squad at the worlds in Bormio and then went out in the first leg of the giant slalom, finally came through Sunday. He negotiated the soft snow and variable visibility to win the super giant slalom in 1 minute, 18.18 seconds.
American Bode Miller, world champ in the super-G and downhill, was fourth, 0.21 seconds off the pace. But it was enough for him to pass Hermann Maier atop the super-G standings. Miller now leads the discipline rankings with 375 points, just one ahead of Maier.
As for Gruber, he finished 0.01 seconds ahead of second-place Didier Defago of Switzerland.
Gruber’s last victory came in 2001 on this slope, where he also won by 0.01 over Maier.
“This was a difficult day for me because my two downhill races here Friday and Saturday were not so good. I was 17th and 16th,” Gruber said. “I was hoping to do some good downhills after Bormio, which was not so successful for me. So I wasn’t very motivated when I woke up this morning.”
The surprise of the day came from 20-year-old Francois Bourque, who clocked 1:18.22 for third place, becoming only the third Canadian man in history to climb a World Cup super-G podium.
The last time was 17 years ago, when Felix Belczyck won in 1988 in Leukerbad, Switzerland. Before that, Brian Stemmle placed third in Furano, Japan, in 1985.
Bourque had never finished in the top 10 in World Cup competition. His previous best results were a pair of 17th places in the super-Gs at Kitzbuehel and Val Gardena this season.
“When I joined the Canadian World Cup team, super-G was my worst discipline,” Bourque said. “When it became clear that I was on the podium, I didn’t really realize it. It was my teammates Erik and the others who started bashing me on the back saying, ‘Yeah, Frank, a podium, a podium!’ Maybe it will sink in later.”
Miller was next, and now leads the discipline standings. Michael Walchhofer, the winner of downhill races Friday and Saturday, finished fifth in 1:18.40 and is third in standings with 229 points.
“It’s just one point,” Miller said. “It doesn’t mean that much. There are a couple of races left and it will probably go down to the wire. And Hermann Maier is skiing well.”
“It was tough to run from where we were today,” Miller added, referring to the later starters. “I think with better conditions Hermann could have won today.”
Maier finished eighth in 1:18.54.
Only two super-G races remain this season, one in Kvitfjell, Norway, and the other at the World Cup finals in Lenzerheide, Switzerland.
Sweden’s Patrick Jaerbyn was involved in an ugly crash on the bottom half of the course, slamming into the nets and dislocating his left shoulder. Doctors put his shoulder back in place on the spot, and Jaerbyn skied down the rest of the course with his arm in a sling.
The injury could damage his bid to compete at the World Cup finals. Only the top 25 skiers plus the junior world champion in each discipline qualify to race at the finals. Jaerbyn is currently 25th.
The day’s results did little to shake up the overall rankings.
Miller still leads the standings with 1,253 points and is now 192 ahead of his nearest challenger, Benjamin Raich, who was 10th in the race. Walchhofer is third with 910, while Maier is fourth with 878.
Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press