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Maier Wins Downhill in Lillehammer


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March 5, 2005, KVITFJELL, Norway (AP) _ Hermann Maier won a World Cup downhill on Lillehammer’s Olympic course Saturday, while Bode Miller finished fourth and extended his overall lead.

Maier, one of the greatest downhillers of all time but a non-winner in Norway since 2001, covered the 3,035-meter Olympiabakken in 1 minute, 46.10 seconds. Austrian countryman Mario Scheiber was runner-up for the second straight downhill, finishing just 0.13 seconds behind.

Maier’s victory was his first in the downhill this season. He has 49 wins in the downhill, super giant slalom and giant slalom in his career, one short of second-place Italy’s Alberto Tomba on the all-time list. Ingemar Stenmark of Sweden tops the list with 86 wins in slalom and giant slalom.

“I’m very, very happy with this result,” Maier said. “It’s very tough to win this race. It’s always very tough here. It’s always close, no big advantages and only a few hundreds between each racer. I skied a good upper section and the middle was just perfect.”

Ambrosi Hoffmann of Switzerland took third, 0.31 off Maier’s pace. It was his best result of the season.

Miller, coming off two disappointing gate races last weekend in Slovenia where he scored no points, was 0.65 back as he improved his chances of becoming the first American since Phil Mahre in 1983 to win the overall title.

“My early start was perfect because the conditions on the course were awesome when I went,” Miller said. “I just made two mistakes that were in pretty bad spots. I went on my hip on the top and also sort of touched down a little bit on the first turn and really made a lousy turn. When you see that you don’t expect to win.”

Miller led his closest rival, Benjamin Raich of Austria, by 31 points going into this weekend’s races. But Raich, who is much stronger in gate races, only managed 12th, 1.11 seconds behind.

Miller now leads Raich by 57 points _ 1,303 to 1,246 _ going into Sunday’s super-G. Maier is third with 1,066. Five races remain, and each win is worth 100 points.

“I’m not disappointed,” Raich said. “It was not so bad. But on the lower part, just before the big jump, I had some problems. It was not perfect, but my run was OK.”

Daron Rahlves of the United States, who won back-to-back downhills here during his breakthrough season in 2000, was fifth, 0.76 behind.

Michael Walchhofer of Austria, winner of the last three downhills, clocked the fastest intermediate times but lost his ski and crashed when coming into a curve near the bottom. He wasn’t injured.

Walchhofer still leads the downhill standings with 631 points. Miller is second with 538, Rahlves third with 404 and Maier fourth with 400.