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BEAVER CREEK, Colo. Dec. 7, 2003 (AP by John Mossman)–For the second time this weekend, Norwegian Bjarne Solbakken came down the course early and posted a fast time, then waited anxiously as higher-seeded skiers took aim at him.
Solbakken was overtaken Friday, but not on Sunday.
He earned his first World Cup victory, holding off Austrian ace Hermann Maier in a super giant slalom race.
Solbakken covered the demanding Birds of Prey course in 1 minute, 13.05 seconds, beating Maier by 0.39 seconds. Another Austrian, Hans Knauss, was third in 1:13.50.
The 26-year-old Solbakken acknowledged he had grown weary of his reputation as a rising star.
“I’ve been up and coming, I’ve been young and promising for a couple of years,” he said. “I’ve had some good results but no podium results.
“This is a breakthrough for me. And it’s good for Norway, because with (Kjetil-Andre) Aamodt injured, we’re a very small team.”
Solbakken enjoyed a stellar weekend. He tied for second in Friday’s downhill, then was 15th in Saturday’s downhill.
Maier, who won Saturday’s downhill, turned 31 Sunday and was presented with a birthday cake on the medals stand. His performance was another step in his remarkable comeback from a motorcycle accident in August 2001 that nearly cost him his right leg.
Maier boosted his lead in the overall standings.
Peter Fill of Italy was fourth in 1:13.58, followed by Didier Cuche of Switzerland in 1:13.73 and Lasse Kjus of Norway in 1:13.76.
Daron Rahlves of Sugar Bowl, Calif., who won Friday’s downhill, finished 12th in 1:14.17. Jakub Fiala of Frisco, Colo., was a career-best 13th in 1:14.23. American Bode Miller, runner-up in last season’s World Cup overall standings, made a mistake for the third straight day. He crashed on Friday and missed a gate Saturday. This time, he skied wide on a turn and missed a gate near the top.
Solbakken, the ninth skier out of the start house, put up a quick run, then waited at the finish as 21 higher-seeded skiers failed to beat him.
Maier, who won the season’s opening super-G last Sunday in Lake Louise, Alberta, came down 28th and was slightly faster than Solbakken at the third intermediate clocking. But he lost precious time on the bottom of the course.
“It’s a great feeling when you know you have made a good run and just watch the others try to beat you,” Solbakken said. “Maier is one of the top skiers in the world. When I saw him come in behind me-perfect.”
Light snow fell during much of the race and reduced visibility for later skiers.
“It was a great race for me,” Maier said. “But it was difficult with a higher number. Not only the snow but also the visibility. It was getting darker and darker. The lower numbers had a big advantage.”
Austria’s Stephan Eberharter, the defending World Cup overall, downhill and super-G champion, also was hurt by a late start number. He finished 19th, more than 1.5 seconds off the pace.
Rahlves had a hectic morning, showing up late and having to get dressed on the lift.
“I got to the start and had only four minutes to get my gear on and go,” he said. “I was just happy to make it down alive without crashing.”
Copyright (c) 2000 The Associated Press