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Olympic Champion Vidal Wins Slalom


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January 22, 2006

KITZBUEHEL, Austria (AP by Eugene Brcic)—Olympic champion Jean-Pierre Vidal of France captured his first World Cup title in five years by winning a slalom Sunday while Bode Miller finished 18th in a bumpy run for the overall champ.

Vidal completed two nearly flawless runs on the tough, icy course at the most prestigious stop on the men’s World Cup circuit in 1 minute, 38.88 seconds.

“It’s simply fantastic, Vidal said.

Austria’s Reinfred Herbst was the runner-up, 0.36 seconds behind, for his first top-three finish. Overall World Cup standings leader Benjamin Raich was 0.50 back in third.

Raich’s total time gave him the combined title, which is calculated by adding the results of the slalom with Saturday’s downhill. Miller was second in the combined, with Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway third.

“It was very hard, a very tough race, Miller said. “It was very bumpy, especially in the second run.

Miller did not finish Friday’s super-G but was fourth in Saturday’s downhill.

“It was an OK weekend. It wasn’t a ‘Bode’ weekend, but it was OK, he said. “Benny (Raich) is simply too strong these days, so I could not catch up.

The top U.S. skier was Ted Ligety in sixth place while Chip Knight was 20th.

“I am happy for my guys, especially about the combined of course, U.S. team coach John McBride said. “It was a solid, good performance, and it’s good to see them cross the finish line.

Ligety, second in the slalom standings behind Italy’s Giorgio Rocca, was not entirely happy.[pagebreak]”Kitzbuehel was my first career race I hit the headlines at _ when I scored the best time in the second run last year, he said. “Therefore, I was speculating on a podium. Unfortunately, my first run was poor, but my second was run was really good.

Rocca, who led the slalom going into the first split time, blew his chance for a sixth straight slalom win after missing a gate. He tried to recover but was too slow to make the cut for the second leg.

Austria’s Michael Walchhofer, who won the downhill, knocked himself out of contention by straddling a gate.

Vidal fell after crossing the line and seeing his time flash on the big screen. Other skiers and course stewards helped him up.

Vidal seems at his best right before an Olympics. He won his first World Cup title before earning a gold medal in the slalom at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. His latest title comes less than three weeks before the Turin Games.

“I hope it is a sign, Vidal said. “I have learned how to lose over the years. Now I know that I can crank it up before the big events.

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press