Maier Wins Sunday's Super-G; Reclaims Overall Lead

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Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany Feb. 2, 2004 (AP by Nescha Starcevic) --Hermann Maier's first full season in his comeback is proving to be more successful than even he could have imagined. Maier won his fifth World Cup super-giant slalom title Sunday, and also put himself in the running for the overall crown.

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Maier earned four straight super-G championships before a motorcycle accident in August 2001 nearly cost him his right leg. He returned late last season. ``It's the best of all of my World Cup wins,'' Maier said. ``Who would have imagined that I would come back from all of that and win back the super-G title? It's a very emotional victory for me.

``It's one of the most difficult courses here. I love to ski here, because I won my first race on this hill.'' Maier launched his remarkable career with a win here in 1997. A two-time Olympic gold medalist in 1998, he's seeking his fourth overall World Cup title. The victory Sunday, the 45th of his career, put Maier atop the overall standings with 922 points. Previous leader Benjamin Raich of Austria crashed heavily on the bottom half of the demanding Kandahar course and dropped to second place with 918 points.

Austrian team officials said Raich has a concussion and might not be able to compete in next weekend's races. Raich is a slalom and giant slalom specialist. ``I would love to win the overall World Cup, but I have not included it in my plans,'' Maier said. ``It is my comeback season, and I am actually surprised about leading the standings. But if Benny Raich is back soon and skiing well in the slaloms, he should ease to victory.''

There are more gate races than speed events left. Maier doesn't compete in the slalom and needs to do well in the giant to have a shot at the overall title. Maier, who has also won a downhill and another super-G this season, has 420 points in the super-G standings. Lasse Kjus is 190 points behind and could theoretically still catch Maier, but the Norwegian is out for the rest of the season with a knee injury. Maier has finished in the top three in all five super-G races so far.

Maier mastered the sun-drenched, 2,270-meter course in 1 minute, 18.09 seconds, edging Pierre-Emmanuel Dalcin of France by .07 seconds. Dalcin had a time of 1:18.16 for his first podium finish. Tobias Gruenenfelder of Switzerland was third in 1:18.46, repeating last year's finish here. Defending World Cup overall champion Stephan Eberharter, who won Saturday's downhill, was only ninth Sunday and dropped one spot to third overall. American Daron Rahlves, another contender for the super-G title, ruined his chances by finishing 14th Sunday.