Raich wins final GS race, World Cup title
ARE, Sweden – Austria’s Benjamin Raich came from behind to win the last World Cup giant slalom of the season Friday, taking the season title in the discipline for the second straight year.Raich, the Olympic giant slalom gold medalist, was second behind Massimiliano Blardone of Italy after the opening leg. But he produced an aggressive second run down the Olympia course to win with a combined time of 2 minutes, 22.50 seconds.Bode Miller, who won Thursday’s super-G and finished second in Wednesday’s downhill, went off course on the first run. The American appeared to hit a bump on a turn and struck the gate hard with his left shoulder. Americans Daron Rahlves and Ted Ligety placed sixth and seventh in 2:24.25 and 2:24.68.Raich has seven World Cup victories so far this season in slalom, giant slalom and combined – more than any other man. He has reached the podium 12 times, and already has clinched the overall title.Saturday’s slalom will be the last individual race of the season. A team event is slated for Sunday.Blardone slipped to second with an aggregate time of 2:23.44. He ended the season as runner-up in the World Cup giant slalom rankings. Blardone needed to win the race or finish several positions ahead of Raich to take the title.
Sweden’s Fredrik Nyberg delighted home fans with a third-place finish in 2:23.52. He ended the season third in the discipline standings.Italy’s Davide Simoncelli and Finland’s Kalle Palander, the only other racers who still had a shot at the title at the start of the day, both skidded out during the opening run, with the Finn tearing ligaments in his left knee.Palander, who was a long shot for the title, was forced to pull out of the final slalom race, handing the discipline globe to Italy’s Giorgio Rocca.Austrian giant slalom ace Hermann Maier and newly crowned World Cup super-G champion Aksel Lund Svindal both skidded off course on the same troublesome icy patch midway down the course in the opening run.Canada’s Francois Bourque was fourth in 2:23.79, while Hannes Reichelt of Austria placed fifth in 2:24.12.Kostelic wins final slalom of season
ARE, Sweden – Janica Kostelic won the last slalom of the season Friday at the World Cup Finals, putting her one victory away from breaking the women’s record for total points in a season.Kostelic, who led after the opening run, overcame a slip on her second trip down the dim Gastrappet course to win with an aggregate time of 1 minute, 45.28 seconds. She has been on the podium in all nine World Cup slalom races this season, winning three.Kostelic could break Pernilla Wiberg’s record for the number of points accumulated in a single season if she wins Saturday’s giant slalom. Wiberg collected 1,960 points in the 1996-97 season. Kostelic has 1,870 points with only the giant slalom left this season. A win in the giant slalom would be worth 100 points.Austria’s Marlies Schild placed second Friday, 0.87 back, to finish as season runner-up in the discipline.”First run, I made a lot of mistakes. I had trouble with my body,” Kostelic said. “When I crossed the finish line, I thought I would be last. When I saw I was first, I was surprised.”Second run, I knew Marlies skied really well and Anja (Paerson) came second. Both were close so I knew I had to attack really good on top. On the bottom I saw girls having trouble on the last bump, which I had, too.”The Croat – who clinched the World Cup overall title on Thursday with a fourth-place finish in the final super-G of the season – already had locked up the slalom title in Levi, Finland, last week.
“It’s pretty amazing to have three overall globes. But I don’t compare my globes,” said Kostelic, who has also won the slalom title three times. “They’re all won in different ways. My first overall globe, I waited until the last race to win it. My second, I went to finals and didn’t win any points.”It’s like if you have three kids and someone asks you which is the favorite. You can’t answer that.”Home favorite and Olympic slalom champion Anja Paerson – who handed Kostelic the overall title when she went out three gates into Thursday’s super-G – was third in Friday’s race, 1.06 off the pace, and ends the season ranked third in the slalom.Finland’s Tanja Poutiainen and American Resi Stiegler tied for fourth in 1:46.84.”The slalom is the worst discipline for my body,” said Paerson, who will undergo surgery on both knees next Thursday in Vail, Colo. “It was a tough day, but I fought through it. Slalom is really bad for my knee, and second run I had a big mistake and hurt my knee pretty bad. I had treatment after lunch and I feel pretty good, and hopefully tomorrow I can focus on the race and not my knee.”Paerson is aiming to win the World Cup giant slalom title. She is 45 points ahead of Spain’s Maria Jose Rienda Contreras, the only woman who can catch her in the standings.Vail, Colorado
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