Strobl Leads Austrian Skiing Sweep, Fleischer Takes Tenth

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Bormio, Italy Dec. 29, 2001 (AP by Piero Valsecchi)--Fritz beat Josef in a battle of the Strobls as Austrian skiers swept the first four spots Saturday in a World Cup downhill race.

Fritz, second in Friday's race at the same Stelvio course, won in 1 minute, 55 seconds to edge Josef by .19 seconds. They are not related.

It was Strobl's sixth career World Cup win and his first this season. The winner said the strong competition among Austrian skiers hoping to earn berths on the Olympic team was paying off.

``We all are aware that a World Cup victory can secure a place for Salt Lake City, thus we all are pushing hard in every race,'' he said. ``I felt good following yesterday's second place. I just tried to repeat the good performance of the previous day, without taking too many risks.''

His immediate goal is to avoid injuries before the Olympics in February.

``An Olympic medal is my season target,'' Strobl explained.

Stefan Eberharter wound up third and Klaus Kroell fourth.

Franco Cavegn and Bruno Kernen finished fifth and sixth.

Austrian Christian Greber, who won Friday's downhill, was seventh, failing to achieve a rare double.

Chad Fleischer had the best finish among Americans. He was 10th. Daron Rahlves wound up 13th and Jakub Fiala 31st.

``I was under pressure,'' said Fleischer, in the top 10 for the first time this season. ``I was afraid of making mistakes. Today's performance will boost my morale. I'm looking forward to the Olympics.''

Saturday's victory was the sixth for Austria in World Cup downhills in Bormio since 1997 and the seventh on the men's World Cup circuit this season.

And the sweep of the top four places was a repeat of the result achieved by Austrian downhillers in a 1999 race at Val D'Isere, France.

Eberharter stretched his lead in the overall World Cup standings. He has 700 points from 15 races, 280 more than second-place Bode Miller of the United States, who doesn't compete in speed events.

Eberharter also leads downhill standings with 370 points from five races. He has two wins, two thirds and a fourth place. Fritz Strobl is second with 260 points.

But Eberharter was not satisfied with his placement.

``Again today I made a bad mistake at the diagonal section,'' he said.

Eberharter is hoping to succeed sidelined teammate Hermann Maier as overall World Cup champion.

The circuit continues with a giant slalom and a slalom at Adelboden, Switzerland, Jan. 5-6, when Miller is expected to return to action.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press