Herminator Struggles at Lillehammer


Kvitfjell, Norway, Mar. 3 (AP by Stephan Nasstrom)--Hermann Maier is having problems on Lillehammer's Olympic downhill course. Just like last year.

``The Herminator'' finished 16th and 11th in consecutive downhills a year ago.

In training this week for the first of two races today, the Austrian has been struggling again on the same hill.

On Thursday, Maier finished only 19th, a distant 1.30 seconds behind pacesetter Kristian Ghedina of Italy.

During Wednesday's first practice, Maier could only manage 10th, nearly two seconds behind American Daron Rahlves' leading time. Rahlves continued his excellent training performances Thursday, finishing a half-second behind Ghedina in fourth place.

Kvitfjell's Olympic course was built for the 1994 Winter Games and is situated an hour north of Lillehammer. It was designed by former Swiss downhill great Bernhard Russi.

``It's not my favorite course,'' Maier said. ``It's not really that difficult or dangerous.''

Maier is more optimistic about his chances in Sunday's Super-G, which will be held on the same hill.

``Winning all three races is impossible,'' he said. ``I'm looking forward more to the Super-G. That's my best chance.''

Maier leads former champion Kjetil Andre Aamodt by 310 points in the chase for his second World Cup overall title. Nine races are left.

He recovered after his downhill disappointments last year to win the Super-G title.

Maier skipped last weekend's gate races _ a giant slalom and a slalom _ in South Korea to avoid jet lag for the races in Norway. He trained near his hometown of Flachau, near Salzburg in Austria.

``I'm in good shape and I'm confident I'll stay on the same level and ski well throughout the World Cup finals in Bormio (Italy, later this month),'' Maier said.

In last year's finals at Sierra Nevada, Spain, Maier lost down the stretch to the two Norwegians, Lasse Kjus and Aamodt.

Kjus is out for the season with health problems, and Aamodt, back in Norway with jet lag, says he has no chance of catching Maier for the overall.

Aamodt, the only skier with a mathematical chance of catching Maier, went to South Korea and added only 18 points to his total. He has 1,260 points. But Aamodt added to his lead in the slalom standings by finishing 14th in South Korea.

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