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Raich Wins Final Giant Slalom


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January 7, 2006

ADELBODEN, Switzerland (AP by Erica Bulman) —Austria’s Benjamin Raich overcame a late mistake Saturday to win a World Cup giant slalom, the last before next month’s Olympics, and overtake Daron Rahlves atop the overall standings.

Raich completed the treacherous two runs on the Chuenisbaergli course in 2 minutes, 23.25 seconds for his second straight giant slalom victory.

“I reached a major goal of mine today,” said Raich, who won last month at Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. “It’s a dream come true. It’s a classic and a victory means a lot on such a difficult course.”

Raich was followed by Fredrik Nyberg of Sweden while Kalle Palander of Finland and Stephan Goergl of Austria shared third. Rahlves crashed during the second run, and U.S. teammate Bode Miller, the overall champion, was 14th.

The 36-year-old Nyberg became the oldest man to finish among the top three in a World Cup race. He beat the mark set by Italy’s Kristian Ghedina, who at 35 was runner-up last season in a downhill at Chamonix, France.

“I am a bit proud of this but I’m not going to quit for all that,” Nyberg said. “My goal is to ski at the world championships at home in Sweden next year.”

Rahlves was 14th in the opening run before his crash near the finish of his second trip. Miller was 16th after his left ski got stuck coming out of the start hut on his first run. Rahlves and Miller are tied for second in the overall standings.[pagebreak]

] Also for the U.S., Ted Ligety was 13th and Erik Schlopy 15th.

The U.S. Olympic team will be announced Jan. 25. Miller, Rahlves and Schlopy already have qualified for the giant slalom squad. The last spot will be filled by Ligety or James Cochran.

Raich was fastest in the opening leg and was leading at the final split on the second run. He appeared to lose his lead when he slowed at the final breakover, coming to a near stop before attacking the following gate. However, the technical expert finished 0.49 seconds ahead of Nyberg.

“It was a tough mistake,” Raich said. “But luckily it was on one of steepest part of course, so I didn’t lose momentum and I could regain speed immediately. There was no time to think. … I was also lucky to have a big enough advantage in the first leg.”

Raich passed Rahlves for the overall lead with 546 points after 17 events, with Rahlves and Miller at 489. Raich also took the lead of the giant slalom standings after five races with 286 points _ 22 ahead of Italy’s Massimiliano Blardone and 62 more than Nyberg.

“It feels good taking the overall lead,” Raich said. “But it’s not today _ I need to be at top but at the end of season.”

Copyright © 2005 The Associated Press