Maier Finishes Second, Wins Men's Downhill Title

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Bormio, Italy Mar. 15 (AP Vania Grandi)--Austrian superstar Hermann Maier captured his third World Cup season title today _ the men's downhill _ after finishing second to teammate Hannes Trinkl in the speed race at the World Cup finals.

Maier, who already captured the overall and Super-G trophies, beat his closest title rival, Italy's Kristian Ghedina, by nearly two seconds to claim what is considered in Austria to be the most prestigious title in Alpine skiing.

``I made a huge mistake at the top and then I was just battling to save my position,'' Maier said. ``I really didn't think I would finish in the top 10.''

Maier will be shooting for his fourth World Cup trophy of the season in Saturday's giant slalom.

Maier was timed in 1 minute, 58.71 seconds down the 3,680-meter long Stelvio course, 0.4 seconds behind Trinkl, who captured his second downhill victory this season in 1:58.31.

Another Austrian, late starter Christian Greber, placed third in 1:59.10.

Fritz Strobl, fastest in Tuesday's training, edged Canada's Ed Podivinsky for fourth as the powerful Austrian team swept the top four places.

Ghedina, who needed a victory here and a poor showing by Maier, was a disappointing 14th, in 2:00.34.

``I knew my chances were slim,'' Ghedina said. ``But I refused to give up before it was over.

``It's frustrating to place second in the downhill standings for the third year,'' Ghedina said.

Daron Rahlves was the top American finisher in ninth. Rahlves grabbed his first victories ever in Norway earlier this month.

Maier topped the World Cup downhill standings after the final race with 800 points. Ghedina was second with 677 points.

Maier won three downhills and placed second three times this season.

``The overall title is the most important title because you have to ski fast in all the disciplines,'' Maier said. ``But the downhill is the most important among the smaller trophies.

``Downhill is the most important among title events, thus this title means a lot to me,'' Maier said.

The last time a man or woman collected four titles in a single season was 1987, when Switzerland's Pirmin Zurbriggen won five.

It was Trinkl's second victory at Bormio and second season win.

``Each victory is great and important, but this is no doubt one of my favorite courses,'' Trinkl said.

The downhill title is considered the most prestigious of the four events, especially in Austria where skiing is the national sport.

Maier, seeking to become the first skier to collect over 2,000 World Cup points, got 80 points with today's second-place finish and moved within 100 points of his goal.

Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press

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