Von Gruenigen Eyes Giant Slalom Title

WC GS 030103

YONGPYONG, South Korea March 1, 2003 (AP)--A big win Saturday has Michael Von Gruenigen on pace to regain the World Cup giant slalom title.

Von Gruenigen beat Frederic Covili and Bode Miller to win the giant slalom on the Yongpyong resort's Rainbow course and increase his lead in the standings.

The 31-year-old Von Gruenigen clinched the victory with a two-run combined time of 2 minutes, 26.68 seconds. Covili was 0.17 behind, while Miller was 0.32 back.

Von Gruenigen's third giant slalom win of the season increased his lead over Miller in the overall giant slalom standings from 57 to 97 points. Von Gruenigen also won two of this season's giant slalom races with victories in Val d'Isere, France, and Park City, Utah.

The Swiss star won the giant slalom world title in 1997 and 2001.

Saturday's races were delayed for one hour as officials cleared four inches of snow that fell overnight.

Covili's best finish of the season before Saturday had been second place in Soelden, Austria, last October. On Saturday, the Frenchman recorded the fastest time of 1:13.41 in the first run.

But it wasn't enough to win. A victorious Von Gruenigen kissed his skies as Covili crossed the finish line in the second run for a combined time of 2:26.85.

Von Gruenigen moves into 11th place in the overall World Cup standings after his victory.

Stephen Eberharter of Switzerland leads the overall standings, followed by Miller and Norway's Kjetil Andre Aamodt. Eberharter, who aimed to gain points in the technical events, came in 23rd on Saturday.

Ivica Kostelic of Croatia did not finish the first run. He leads the slalom title race by 100 points over Finland's Kalle Palander and could almost clinch a World Cup victory with a win Sunday.

Austria's Hermann Maier did not compete at Yongpyong. He has had a nail surgically removed from the leg he almost lost in a motorcycle crash in 2001.

This Asian resort is staging two technical events for the Word Cup _ the slalom and giant slalom.

Copyright © 2000 The Associated Press