Austria’s Raich wins overall Alpine title |

Austria’s Raich wins overall Alpine title

Daily Staff Report
AP photo Benjamin Raich of Austria cruises through a gate en route to a fourth-place finish in the World Cup men's slalom Saturday. With the finish, Raich claimed the overall men's Alpine title.

SHIGA KOGEN, Japan – Benjamin Raich of Austria wrapped up his first overall World Cup title by finishing fourth Saturday in the men’s slalom race.Raich, who won Friday’s slalom here, had a time of 1 minute, 40.95 seconds on the Mount Yakebitai course.”It was a perfect day,” said Raich. “Fourth place is good. The overall World Cup title is fixed and all the training and hard work has paid off.”Norway’s Aksel Lund Svindal, the only skier with a chance of catching Raich in the standings, finished tied for eighth place.Kalle Palander of Finland and Austrian Reinfried Herbst tied for first with times of 1:40.60. Canada’s Thomas Grandi was third in 1:40.93.Raich has 1,310 points after Saturday’s race. Svindal has 810 points but needed to win all five remaining events to catch Raich.Raich said he didn’t feel too much pressure to win the overall title.”I pretty much knew I had it going into today’s race,” said Raich. “But skiing is No. 1 in Austria and people expect an Austrian to be on top of the podium.”

After Saturday’s slalom in Shiga Kogen, the remaining four men’s World Cup events will be held at Aare, Sweden, next week.Raich said he will likely race in the super G, giant slalom and slalom races in Sweden and will be gunning for the giant slalom title.For Palander, it was another fine performance in Japan.”I always seem to ski well here,” he said. “I won in Shiga Kogen three years ago and have no trouble with the snow. The conditions are a bit different from other places but it doesn’t bother me.”With Saturday’s win, Palander held on to second place in the slalom standings with 495 points. Italy’s Giorgio Rocca, who tied for eighth place Saturday, is first with 547 points.Palander said Rocca must be feeling the pressure.”I feel bad for him because he won five slaloms in a row at the start of the season but has struggled since,” Palander said. “He fell at the Olympics and now it looks like he may not win the slalom title, but that’s competition.”Grandi took his second straight third-place finish.

“It was a good race today,” said Grandi. “I had nothing to lose and just tried to ski aggressively. Any time you can get two podiums you have to be happy.”Paerson wins slalomLEVI, Finland – Olympic champion Anja Paerson of Sweden won a women’s World Cup slalom on Saturday, while Croatia’s Janica Kostelic clinched the season slalom title by finishing second.Paerson had a two-run total of 1 minute, 38.86 seconds on Levi’s Black course to finish 0.29 seconds ahead of Kostelic. It was the two-time defending World Cup champion’s third slalom win of the season.Only one slalom remains, at the World Cup Finals next week at Are, Sweden.”I’m happy to win the slalom cup,” Kostelic said. “I’m also happy about these races. The slope was the same both days.”Kostelic, who won a night slalom on the same hill Friday, has 640 points in the slalom standings, 170 ahead of Marlies Schild of Austria. A win is worth 100 points.

Paerson will likely need surgery on her knees after the season.”It didn’t bother me a lot today,” Paerson said. “It’s hard to say about my knees’ condition because it’s going up and down every day. When I came here I felt pain in my knees.”Paerson posted the fastest opening run and was runner-up in the second run.”The slope was good,” she said. “I was able to attack more than yesterday. I’m really happy with the win.”Olympic silver medalist Nicole Hosp of Austria finished third, 1.14 seconds back, after clocking the fastest second run. Schild, the only other racer with three slalom wins this season, was 1.60 off the pace in fourth place.Kostelic still has a comfortable lead over Paerson in the overall standings. With four races left next week, Kostelic leads Paerson 1,720 points to 1,466.Kathrin Zettel of Austria, who was third after the opening run, skied out in the second.Italy’s Chiara Costazza placed fifth for her best finish of the season, followed by Lindsey Kildow of the United States.Levi is north of the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, and is the northernmost venue on the World Cup circuit.

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