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Swiss Von Gruenigen Wins Giant Slalom Ski Title


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St. Anton, Austria (AP by Nesha Starcevic)–Michael Von Gruenigen of Switzerland won his second giant slalom gold medal at the World Championships with a strong second run Thursday.

Also champion in 1997, von Gruenigen shared fourth place after the first run with Olympic champion Hermann Maier, who wound up fourth and finished the championship without a gold medal.

Von Gruenigen had a combined two-run time of 2 minutes, 23.80 seconds.

Kjetil-Andre Aamodt of Norway, already the most decorated man in the history of Alpine skiing, picked up his second medal of the championship by finishing second in 2:24.15.

Frederic Covili of France was third in 2:24.18, edging Maier by .01 seconds.

Aamodt, who had won the combined gold, raised his medal total at world championships and Olympic Games to 15.

On Wednesday, Austria’s Hannes Trinkl delighted the home crowd of more than 35,000 by winning the downhill and beating Maier, who lost his second title at the championship.

There was no controversy in the downhill but there were plenty of angry words after the women’s slalom, raced on a badly chopped course, ruined by days of mild weather.

The rutted course seemed to suit Swedish teen-ager Anja Paerson just fine.

The 19-year-old from Taernaby, the hometown of former Swedish slalom star Ingemar Stenmark, mastered the crumbling Sonnenwiese course in a two-run combined time of 1:32.95 for the first major international title of her career.

With Stenmark in the audience, Paerson attacked the course in her usual aggressive style, protecting her lead from the first run.

“I knew I had nothing to lose,” said Paerson, a four-time junior world champion. “The worse the course, the better I skied. I had a really tough time, I can’t tell if the race should have been run or not. I am happy now, but maybe the others are not so happy.”

France’s Christelle Saioni was runner-up in 1:33.56, ahead of Hedda Berntsen of Norway, who took bronze in 1:33.99.

Janica Kostelic, the Croatian sensation who had swept seven straight slaloms this season, finished a disappointing fifth, behind Austria’s Sabine Egger, and blasted the conditions.

“With the great racers Katja Seizinger, Deborah Compagnoni and Pernilla Wiberg, this race would never have been held,” said a disgusted Kostelic.

Of 83 starters, 40 failed to finish.

“The conditions weren’t ideal today,” said American Kristina Koznick, who finished eighth. “And before the second run a lot of the girls were talking about ‘maybe we should just protest, and not go,’ but it’s a world championship and the girls were leaving saying ‘yeah, right.’ It’s too bad it was unfair.”

Gian Franco Kasper, president of the International Ski Federation, heavily criticized the decision to hold the race despite the poor conditions.

“The course was not worthy of the world championships,” Kasper said.

Local organizers defended their preparation of the slope, saying it was FIS that told them not to use hardening chemicals to prevent the already steep course from becoming to slick.

Earlier in the day, with horns blaring and even nuns waving red-and-white Austrian flags, Hannes Trinkl dethroned Maier with a brave run down the badly chopped and shortened Karl Schranz course.

Florian Eckert, an unheralded German who started 25th, celebrated his 22nd birthday by clinching the bronze medal, after posting the fastest times in the upper part of the course and making the Austrians tremble for their 1-2 finish.

“My heart stopped for a minute,” said Trinkl, a hefty, red-cheeked racer who took the bronze medal at the 1998 Nagano Olympics but had not won anything this season.

Trinkl covered the 8,250-foot course in 1:38.74. Maier clocked 1:38.94 and Eckert finished in 1:39.26.

Silvano Beltrametti of Switzerland finished fourth in 1:39.37 and Daron Rahlves of the United States, winner of the super-G, fiinished fifth in 1:39.64.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press